Google+ Gets Facebook-Like Refresh

Google's fledgling social networking site, Google+, gets a major refresh that makes it feel a lot more like rival Facebook.

In an effort to more directly compete with social networking behemoth Facebook, search giant Google unveiled a refresh of Google+, its social networking platform that hasn€™t made as big a splash as hoped (despite boasting 170 million members).

Instead of static icons at the top, the redesign swings them to the left side of the main screen, where users can drag apps up or down to create the order they want and hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions. Users can also show or hide apps by moving them in and out of €œMore.€

Google also gave a facelift to the Hangouts feature, which uses live video to bring people together. The company added a dedicated Hangouts page that creates more opportunities to connect in person, including an updated list of invitations from the people in your circles, access to every public and On Air hangout for those times when you want to meet someone new, or the ability to watch a live broadcast and a rotating billboard of popular hangouts, pro tips and other items.

€œSimply put, we're hoping to make sharing more awesome by making it more evocative,€ Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra wrote in a company blog post. €œYou know that feeling you get when a piece of art takes your breath away, or when a friend stops by with unexpected gifts? We want sharing to feel like that, every single time."

Another upgrade targeted the conversations capabilities of the site, which now offers full-bleed photos and videos, a stream of conversation "cards" that make it easier to scan and join discussions, and an activity drawer that highlights the community around the content. The update extends beyond navigation, the stream and hangouts: There's a new Explore page that shows what's interesting and trending across the network, and a new profile with much bigger photos. In addition, a new chat list puts friends more front and center.

€œBy focusing on you, the people you care about, and the stuff you€™re into, we€™re going to continue upgrading all the features you already know and love€”from Search and Maps to Gmail and YouTube,€ Gundotra said. €œWith today€™s foundational changes, we can move even faster€”toward a simpler, more beautiful Google. 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.€