ShareThis Page
Business

Facebook, Google ramp up battle for users

| Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011

Google Inc. and Facebook trotted out a variety of new social networking features in back-to-back announcements on Tuesday, underscoring their intensifying competition for Web surfers.

Google integrated its flagship search engine into its 3-month old social network -- with membership now open to the Internet public -- and expanded its "Hangouts" video-chat feature to allow mobile use and broadcasting.

The company said on its official blog that its well-received Hangouts feature -- where up to nine people can link up and chat with a user on video -- will be available on camera-equipped smartphones powered by its own Android software. Support for Apple Inc. iOS devices "is coming soon," it added.

And a user can now host an online broadcast with this feature -- recording a session and broadcasting it live for public access online. Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am will host the first "Hangout on Air" today, Google said.

"Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real world, so today we're launching it on the one device that's always by your side: your mobile phone," senior vice president of engineering, Vic Gundotra, said on the blog post.

For its part, Facebook said it was introducing a new "ticker" on its users' home pages, providing real-time notifications of what friends are doing on the service. Facebook also revamped the service's main news feed to flag important items -- such as a new baby announcement -- for Facebook users who have not logged on for a few days. Facebook also changed the way photos are displayed on the site, increasing the size of pictures that appear in a user's news feed.

Facebook is the world's No.1 social networking service, with more than 750 million users. The company has rolled out a series of improvements to its service recently, many of which seem designed to match features Google has used to set apart its rival social networking service, Google+.

Google did not say how many people had signed up for Google+ so far but confirmed the social network was now open to all, whereas previously it had been invitation-only. Analysts estimate upward of 25 million users have joined Google+ since its inception.

The company also made its search engine available from within the social network. Users can search from Google+ and get results not just on the network, but from the worldwide Internet.

Google's infant social network, which counts Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a member, has met skepticism so far. Some are waiting to see whether it can maintain the rapid momentum of its first months.

If CEO Larry Page's brainchild -- which some say mimics better than Facebook the instinctive categorizing of friends that occurs in real life -- takes off, it will come at a pivotal moment for its bigger rival. Facebook is widely expected to go public in 2012.

"We're nowhere near done, but with the improvements we've made so far we're ready to move from field trial to beta," Gundotra said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me