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What’s Google up to lately?

Google+ has once again passed another milestone. While the new social network has successfully distracted us all with its growing number of features, the user base of Google+ has quietly tipped 90 million people.  This is a massive achievement considering the search engine only launched its social network arm six months ago. Milestones aside, let’s take a look at the new features Google has introduced recently.

Search Plus Your World

Probably the most talked about update from the search engine giant has been the inclusion of Google+ results when using Google Search. Following Google’s long held stance on personalising results, Google+ profiles and posts are now being added to its search functionality.

There has been plenty of debate surrounding the reasoning that brought them to this decision? Here’s my view on things. Firstly, although a lot of online searching might be for general things (speed of light in a vacuum or the nearest late night pizza place), looking for advice on travelling to Bali or the best restaurants in the central part of Rome can often produce some conflicting results. You might receive a million different fare packages, hotel offers or an encyclopaedia of paid reviews, but not necessarily anything clear, unbiased or useful. In times like this, advice from friends can often come in handy. If your personal results are enabled, you’ll also see the inclusion of related posts (reviews, tips, photos) from people in your Google+ circles.

Another part of ‘Search Plus Your World’ is the ability to find profiles and Google+ pages through Google Search.  When you do an online search you’ll find your results are prioritised, showing results from those that are close to you (friend of friend circles etc.) or of things you might be interested in from previous searches and Google+ content.

Benefits aside, these changes have drawn some ire from the community, with some users stating that the updates destroy the integrity of Google search results and falsely promotes Google’s own social network.

Revised Naming Policy

From its launch, the Google+ social network has long maintained a “real names” policy in an effort to get its various services working well together.  While the sentiment makes sense, it had the potential to cause problems for people who are widely identified by pseudonyms (such as Madonna) or by a popular nicknames (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

As part of its revised naming policy, Google+ has allowed both nicknames and alternative names which can be added or modified on your profile. These are similar to the modified names in Facebook and provide another method for people to identify and search for someone.

Those with established pseudonyms can make their case with Google+ by providing scans of official documentations (such as a driver’s license), offline references to an established identity (print media, etc.) or proof of an established online identity with a meaningful following.

While some of these changes seem to be in the best of spirit, many are still considered contentious. Feel free to leave your own opinions on this in the comments below.

Updated Age Restriction

Lastly, people as young as 13 are now able to sign up for a Google+ account. As a result, Google’s strict censorship policies relating to adult-restricted content on its social network are starting to make more sense. These policies had previously sparked some heated debate when Google+ began censoring everything on its network from nude photos through to photos of people “flipping the bird”.

In any case, it’s certainly been an interesting ride for Google so far this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all pans out. In the meantime, check out iiNet’s Google+ page and drop us a comment.

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