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Google+ More Closely Mirroring Facebook

Company breaks out new features, user numbers

When Google broke out Google+ user numbers back in September, there was scrutiny of how many of its 100 million monthly active users visited the Facebook-like social network versus affiliated properties like Google+ Local, a Yelp-like locations guide. Google cleared up these questions today in a blog post announcing updated user numbers and new product features.

Of the 500 million users that have signed up for Google+, 235 million are active users—which includes “+1'ing apps in Google Play, hanging out in Gmail, connecting with friends in Search...,” according to Google—and 135 million actively check out the Google+ stream (its version of the Facebook News Feed or Twitter stream). That’s well short of Facebook’s 1.01 billion monthly active user base and perhaps not encouraging for a Google-run property that’s been live for over a year. Nonetheless Google is continuing to add new features to Google+.

When Google+ launched in June of last year, it was immediately met with comparisons (that have continued throughout its 17-month existence) to Facebook and criticism that it was chasing after the leading social network. Today's product announcements probably won’t help.

Of foremost interest to brands will be the Facebook Groups-like Google+ Communities. This lets users create subject-centric groups—such as one for surfing or San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood or a local park’s adult softball league—that others can join. Group members can interact with one another by holding discussions or Hangouts and planning events much as they do in their Google+ Circles.

But Circles isn’t the only existing Google+ features that Communities seems to mirror. It also seems awfully similar to Google+ Pages. Audi, Star Wars and video game Call of Duty are among the brands that on Thursday will launch a Google+ Community, which are respectively titled “The Audi Community,” “Star Wars,” and “Call of Duty players.”

In addition to a Facebook Groups rival, Google is also rolling out an Instagram rival for Android devices. Google acquired the company behind iOS-only photo-editing app Snapseed in September—the same month Facebook closed its acquisition of Instagram—and said that today it's rolling out an Android version of the app, making the iOS version free and connecting both with Google+ so that users can share their photos to the social network. Previously users could only share photos to Facebook and Twitter or via email.

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