Google+ is getting a facelift, and as seen in the above video, it promises every user the "World in Front of Me" (from the album Stairwells, Kina Grannis.) According to Google, the redesign will make the social network "more functional and flexible."
Common sense says the apps are coming.
Cosmetics aside, changes include: a new navigation interface with a customizable "ribbon" of applications (left side), replacing statice top-of-page icons, that enables dragging of apps to a customized order, and the ability to hover over apps for quick actions, as illustrated here.
"We've also built the ribbon with the future in mind, giving us an obvious (and clutter-free) space for The Next Big Feature, and The Feature After That. So stay tuned,” writes Google's Vic Gundotra.
A public signal that Google+ is planning to open its platform to third-party apps?
Google+ has been open to external developers here and there already. Most notably, developers are able to integrate their own apps into Google+ Hangouts. The search giant has also partnered with third-party game makers like Zynga to power its Google+ game platform. The logical next step seems to be to extend these partnerships to other developers and give them the ability to launch apps right from the Google+ launchbar.
A smart move, writes Mike Isaac at Wired:
The future of social platforms depends in large measure on the ability to wrangle a growing number of services and features than can be referenced on a user’s home page.
The more you get people to use applications that integrate well with your platform, the more chance you have of increasing user engagement. More user engagement means more ads, the bread and butter of Facebook and presumably Google+ (though Google+ currently does not feature display ads prominently like Facebook).
The redesign also has accommodation for larger photos and more videos, a "Hangouts" update that regularly lists friend invitations and access to an ‘On Air’ public space for making new connections and watching live broadcasts.
Though still fraught with challenges, visitors to Google+ increased 27% in March from February, and visits reached 61 million. To put it in perspective, notes CNET:
Facebook has been on a downward slide in the U.S. for much of the past year. From its recent peak last July through March, Facebook's U.S visits have fallen by a fairly astonishing 1.3 billion -- a 15 percent drop.
Put it this way: since last June, Facebook has lost 20 times as many monthly U.S. visits as Google+ has ever seen -- and hardly anyone noticed. (Facebook's would-be IPO investors certainly haven't.)
Google's Gundotra remains upbeat:
More than 170 million people have upgraded to Google+, enjoying new ways to share in Search, Gmail, YouTube and lots of other places. It's still early days, and there’s plenty left to do, but we're more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google…With today’s foundational changes we can move even faster—toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.”
Beauty aside, Google+ just upped its competitive ante in the world of social.