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Google Plus open for all, adds new features

Google's social network has just been opened for all, and it's added some pretty nifty new features while it's at it.

It's been two-and-a-half months of closed testing, but now Google Plus is open to all, so anyone can join up now. Yes, anyone -- as long as you're over 18.

Google's social network was previously available only to journalists and people in the technology field (and those they invited), but now it's there for all. Not only that, it's added some cool new features too.

Despite being closed except to those in the know, Google Plus attracted 10 million users in the first two weeks. There are no official figures since then, but estimates put it at 25 million total users, thanks mostly to its system of letting members invite friends to join. Expect numbers to swell now anybody can sign up.

So, what of these new features? Video hangouts have come to Android phones, so you can chat online on the go and see who you're talking to. You can share what's on your computer screen with whoever you're talking to, saving emailing pictures of your cat unless they want them for keeps, and you can now search within Google Plus, giving you access to socially shared information as well as what's online. So if loads of people recommend a restaurant, it'll be more prominent in your search results.

Despite the early surge in demand for Google Plus, industry estimates say the rate of public posting is declining. Even Google's CEO isn't all that bothered any more, it seems. Facebook recently rolled out some new features that seem a direct swipe at undercutting Google Plus, including the ability to organise your friends into groups (like Plus' Circles). Facebook is also holding its f8 conference on Thursday, which should see it roll out a series of media partnerships bringing music and video streaming to the site.

Have you been using Google Plus? Or will you sign up now it's open for all? Let us know on our Facebook page.