Is Google+ adding features?
A recent series of updates have inspired both excitement and ire among Facebook users, but Google has been making its own waves in the social networking space -- and there may be a few tricks up its sleeves too.
Google+ skyrocketed in popularity after the search giant opened up its social network to the public last week, according to data from Experian Hitwise, with one analyst concluding that the site has already hit 50 million users. In light of this new traffic surge, Google looks primed to unveil a flurry of new features, as one curious user discovered while diving through the site’s code.
Matt Mastracci, a programmer by trade and CTO of the tech startup Gripe, was looking for a way to use the new “Circle sharing” feature before it was officially rolled out when he inadvertently discovered five new upcoming features yet to be announced.
A Google spokeswoman told FoxNews.com it doesn't comment on future products or features. Mastracci has no such qualms, discussing the features in a post on his Google+ profile, as well as on his blog.
Mastracci found clues of potential Google Voice integration -- such as a setting labeled “Allow people to phone me from my profile.” This could open the door for free and easy phone calls with friends and family through the site, and take it head-to-head with Facebook's recent partnership with Skype.
Google also looks to be taking on the likes of Yahoo Answers and Quora as Mastracci uncovered what looked to be an internal Q&A platform between users and designated “experts.” According to the code, Google promises that “you can get answers” from the “community in about 5 minutes!”
For all intents and purposes, much of the fundamental functionality of the Google+ and Facebook overlap comfortably except one glaring exception -- the ability to post on other users’ walls. Not for long, according to Mastracci, who found evidence of potential profile scribbling in the future.
One difference will be the sharing settings: The messages will only be available to the person whose wall it is, he said.
Expanding photo features
Photos is one area that Facebook completely dominates. With 140 billion pictures on the site and a further 70 billion expected by year end, Facebook stores 10,000 more photos than the Library of Congress. To compete, Google+ will need more robust photo features; it looks like some are in the pipeline, Mastracci suggests. The programming sleuth found evidence of new photo options, such as being able to view photos sent from the messenger service.
Privacy settings made easy
Privacy has been an area of contention for Facebook and it's also something that Google has been extremely wary about, giving users as much power as possible when it comes to what they're sharing and who they're sharing it with. Now, to further simplify the process, it looks like Google+ will have four privacy presets, each giving users a varied experience from "public on the web" -- for those looking for the Big Brother experience -- to "Lockdown," which allows users to stop sharing completely and temporarily hide their information.
Since these features are still unannounced, no one knows for sure when or if they will go live.
"It's worth noting that we are always experimenting with new ways to improve Google+," a Google spokeswoman told FoxNews.com. "Not every experiment makes it into the product, but we test new things on a regular basis."
But given Facebook’s latest activity as well as the surge in traffic on Google+ -- which saw a 1,300 percent increase over the last week -- sooner rather than later would be a reasonable guess.