Google+ opened to the masses

Search giant adds some video features to its social networking service

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Google+ was opened to the Internet public on Tuesday, after having operated for less than 90 days on an invitation-only basis.

The search giant's latest social networking experiment had a good roll-out, getting decent reviews and spawning countless columns and blog posts speculating whether Google+ is a threat to Facebook.

(Also see: Most developers think Google+ will catch Facebook)

Since late June, Google+ has grown to 25 million active monthly users. That's impressive, especially since until now it was a semi-exclusive social network.

But Google+ is a long way from being a threat to Facebook, which has 750 million active monthly users, or 30 for each Google+ user.

That doesn't mean Google+ can't emerge as a serious rival to Facebook. It can. Some would say it is now, based on how Facebook has introduced features borrowed from Google+, such as a way to create exclusive subgroups of friends, similar to Google+'s Circles.

Google shrewdly unveiled several video-related features during Tuesday's public opening of Google+. One, called Hangout, allows group video chat, something Facebook doesn't yet offer.

The real test for Google+ -- and, by extension, for Facebook -- comes now, with Google able to offer (and market) its social networking service to 1 billion monthly users.

Incredibly, Google would have to convert nearly three-quarters of its monthly users in order to match Facebook's current total. That's not going to happen, at least any time soon.

I'm curious to see what the comScore numbers show for Google+ a couple of months from now. I'd also love to know what Google's internal growth goals are for its new social network for the rest of the year and beyond.

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