Mike Isaac

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With a Slew of Updates, Google+ Makes Its Photography Pitch

If Google were still trying to figure out how to fit yet another social network into people’s lives, it isn’t anymore.

The search giant has aimed Google+, its company-wide social platform initiative, squarely at a specific audience: Photo lovers.

In a blast of 18 new product features launched on Tuesday, Google beefed up a number of its photo-enhancement features for its main Google+ app, as well as a number of its related proprietary photo applications.

“The cloud is not just about storing your photos — Google aims to revolutionize photography,” SVP Vic Gundotra said. “We think these are the photos that matter in our lives.”

New features include an automatic full-resolution photo-upload feature for iOS devices, which will store pictures to your connected Google+ account on Google’s massive cloud storage servers. Search terms have been updated and improved for sifting through your files. And, most notably, the company has made incremental improvements to its suite of tools — including Snapseed and Nik, both product sets that came to the company as the result of acquisitions — the most impressive of which were automatic-enhancement features that require little to no effort on behalf of the user.

The host of updates is another instance of Google beating the photography drum, as the company seeks to differentiate itself from competitors such as Facebook and Twitter while also rallying for part of the same user base. The event itself was introduced thematically, taking place at a trendy art gallery in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. A number of non-Google employees were invited to attend the event — many of whom were chosen due to their active uploading of photos and photography enthusiasm on Google+.

The company’s initiative has not been without its struggles. After Google+ launched two years ago, the company began rolling it out as a social login to be spread across all of Google’s properties — a change that rankled some privacy advocates and upset some users who preferred the segmented approach.

The company has also been challenged to prove that it is indeed a thriving hub of activity, despite many claims by users, analysts and the press that, when stacked up against Facebook, no one uses Google+.

To rebut that idea, Google released new user statistics on Tuesday, claiming more than 300 million monthly active users visiting the Google+ stream, and more than 540 million users interacting with Google+ across all of Google’s properties. That latter number, however, often raises eyebrows, as it is unclear what constitutes as engagement with Google+ on other Google sites.

Along with the photography updates, Google also launched enhancements to its Hangouts application, and some minor tweaks to the types of media supported in messaging. The full set of features is available in Google’s blog post.

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