Google+ celebrates 1st birthday with Events and History

One year ago today, Google moved onto Facebook's turf and stunned techdom in the process. How much has changed? Google+ now has a total of 250 million users. Of that figure, Google says 150 million people use the service at least monthly, and 50 percent of those active users do so daily. That doesn’t actually mean 75 million people go to Google+ every day though -- it just means that they have some sort of interaction with Google’s social features, or more likely, click +1 buttons.

Despite its reasonably impressive growth, Google+ still lags a long, long way behind Facebook, which has over 900 million users. Google knows it’s got its work cut out to persuade ordinary Facebook users to give Plus a try. Especially, as in most cases, their friends won’t be using it. To help encourage sampling and indeed regular usage, Google has consistently added more and more features to its site, and beefing up its mobile offerings. At Google I/O it announced a new app for Android smartphones with new profiles, a ribbon bar, and new notifications, as well as native tablet apps for both Android and iPad designed specifically for the larger screen sizes. The Android version is already available, with the iPad edition coming "soon".

Google+ Events

At Google I/O the company also introduced a brand new feature called Events, which basically offers integration with Google Calendar, allowing you to send invites to upcoming occasions, manage attendance, share photos and more.

Using the new feature is very straightforward. Just give your event a title, set the date and time, add an optional location, then fill in the details and invite some people. You can invite anyone, they don’t need to be Google+ users, although any who are, will have access to additional features, like live photo sharing.

You can change the theme of the invitations to suit the type of occasion. Clicking the left and right arrows, will let you move through 28 "cinemagraphic" themes (subtly animated images), or you can click the Change Theme button and select some of the featured choices, choose some stationary, or add one of your own photos. You can pick an image available on Google+ or Picasa, or upload something from your computer.

People who receive an invite will be able to confirm whether they’ll be coming or not, and will be given the option of checking their availability on Google Calendar before committing themselves. If your friends don’t check into Google+ very often, it doesn’t matter as events are automatically added to Google Calendar as well.

Upcoming occasions are all accessed through the new Events section and selecting something will show you who’s attending, and any comments they’ve made about it.

Best of all, people will be able to add photos, before, during or after the event, by linking or uploading them, or using the Google+ app on their phones. All of the photos will appear under the Event information, and if your friends have enabled the instant upload feature on the Google+ app (Party Mode), the photos will appear as they are snapped. Which is very, very cool, and could be a major draw.

Google+ History

Another new feature that’s being worked on is Google+ History. The API (currently available as an early preview will allow developers to add a few lines of code to their website or app that will privately save a user’s actions in his or her Google+ History. For example, if someone listens to a song in a media player, that information will be saved, but not shared on the social network. If the user wants to share it, they’ll be able to do so, but it won’t be public by default. Although it’s very early days, this could have some great uses, such as allowing users to republish some, but not all of their tweets, for example.

As with all previous updates, it’s unlikely these new features will persuade huge numbers of Facebook users to migrate over, but I can see the Party Mode in particular, proving very popular.

What’s your opinion on Google+? Do you currently use it? Do you plan to use it? And what do you think of the new features?

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