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Google+ wants you and your photos to never, ever leave

Caitlin McGarry | Oct. 30, 2013
Google showed off 18 new features to its slow-growing social network in an effort to convince photographers of its awesomeness.

If your photography skills are more on the professional side, Google added filters to its photo editors, both the browser-based Snapseed and the Nik Collection, Google's $149 suite of plug-ins for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom, and Aperture. Those are the only editors that can post images to Google+, since there are no APIs to let other apps post images on the network—only Google's own products can do that.

Better Hangouts
Google+ also wants to be the place where you have all your conversations, so the network is updating its stand-alone Hangouts app for Android to support SMS texts. Now you don't have to leave the Hangouts app to keep messaging with friends. This fits with Google's goal: That you never, ever leave Google+, especially not to use other messaging services.

"You don't have to deal with multiple clients," Gundotra said.

What he meant: Feel free to delete Snapchat, Android users.

Google is also enabling one-tap location-sharing—powered by Google Maps, of course—within the Hangouts app, plus animated GIF viewing. Yeah, animated GIFs. That's something Facebook doesn't have. Auto Awesome is also coming to video calls on Hangouts, so you can put a filter on your live-action self. Those updates are rolling out in the next few days for Hangouts for Android users. Gundotra didn't say whether the Hangouts improvements will hit iOS anytime soon.

Back on the desktop, Google added some improvements to Hangouts on Air, the company's quest to bring big names like President Barack Obama down to average Google+ users. Now Google lets users create dedicated landing pages to promote Hangout events and added tools to help manage those events once they start.

The Google+ niche
If Facebook is a place for friends, then Google+ can be the place for photos. Videos, too. Being just another social network isn't an option, not when the landscape is so cluttered. Google+ has some power behind it—now it just needs people to actually post.

Gundotra and co. are betting that catering to photographers—both professionals and those of us who let our smartphones do most of the work—will set Google's social network apart. Gundotra reiterated several times that Google+ wants to revolutionize photography and help people tell stories with their images. They just might be onto something.


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