Google+ debuts in 48 new countries and territories

With Facebook getting into search, Google beefs up social media presence

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
January 18, 2013
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A few days after Facebook debuted its own search engine, one that could potentially rival Google at some point down the road, Google+, the company's rival social network, is getting a major expansion, Google engineer Frank Petterson announced on his own Google+ profile Thursday.

The Google+ iPad and iPhone apps, which were released in July 2012, will be available in the following 48 new countries and territories:

Albania, Anguilla, Barbados, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chad, Republic of Congo, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Liberia, Macau, Malawi, Mauritania, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Montserrat, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Suriname, Swaziland, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos, Ukraine, British Virgin Islands, Zimbabwe.

By launching in so many new areas, Google+ has to be hoping that it can gain some ground on Facebook in the social media arena, just as Facebook has made its first significant effort in search.

Google vs. Facebook

In December Google+ announced that it had over 500 million users, 235 million of which are active across Google (by +1'ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search, for example) and 135 million who are active in just the stream. The social network trails far behind Facebook, which revealed that it had one billion monthly active users this past September.

Now that Facebook has debuted its Graph Search, the two companies, which were already rivals for the social media space, will probably wind up competing in the search space as well. But, for now, there seems to be little overlap between the two.

The essential difference between the Web search and Graph Search is that Web search gathers information about things, while Graph Search gathers information about people. And while that may scare some users, Facebook says that it built its search engine with privacy in mind, and that information that was made private will not come up in Graph Search results.

Here's how Facebook attempted to explain the difference between the two types of search:

"Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: "my friends in New York who like Jay-Z") to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses."

Recent Google+ updates

Google has recently been adding numerous updates to its app for iOS and Android, including the ability for users to subscribe to mobile notifications from their favorite circles and interact with Google+ Communities on their phone or tablet.

Communities, which essentially act like Facebook groups, were introduced in December. Users can create groups, either publicly or privately, regarding any topic, in order for people with similar interests to be able to come together to discuss their shared hobbies.

Google also began allowing mobile users to edit their profiles on-the-go and gave them access to full-sized back up to their photos, with up to 5 GB of storage, along with the standard size option, with unlimited free storage. Google+ also began allowing users with Android 4.2 to create photo spheres, which allow users to take 360-degree photographs, and allowing anyone with Froyo or above to them.

Android users are also got animated GIFs, birthday reminders in Google Now, and a lock screen widget, while iOS users got new conversation cards, which feature longer snippets, bigger photos, and comments that slide in beneath each post. 

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