Just when you thought Google+ was worn out and ready for the boring bin, the search giant unleashed its secret weapon: Graphic design. The new and improved Google+ doesn't look a thing like the old Google+. In fact, it hardly looks like Google, what with all kinds of nice gradients and smooth animations, Google+ now has more in common with Twitter and Tumblr than it does with the company's flagship search engine. The new Google+ is even more like Facebook, with its cover photo, moveable app icons on the lefthand side of the page, and endless stream of procrastination devices.
Sometimes, procrastination isn't a bad thing. Social media sites are fun, because they enable you to trade links, make jokes, and virtually hangout with your friends. Google is leaning hard on this notion with the Google+ redesign. And as Google senior vice president Vic Gundrota mentioned in an official blog post, users "can expect more hangouts in more places in the future." This is a predictable and probably well advised decision since Hangouts have so far been the stickiest feature on Google+. However, it's obvious that Google wants Google+ to become something more than just a place to hang out.
With its redesign, Google+ is looking more and more like a deep rabbit hole—in the Lewis Carroll sense. It's now a place to get lost for hours. The new homepage, as we suggested above, is very similar to Facebook and its Newsfeed, but the end of the feed seems much deeper with the inclusion of a new "Explore" feature that spits out a feed of what's trending in your network, including but not limited to news, hilarious cat videos, and mind-bending photos of nature. Again, it's a lot like Facebook's Newsfeed except full of more strangers and a layout that looks like Tumblr. Each item fits snugly into the stream and hovering over photos and videos reveals some neat sharing features. Obviously, there are multiple opportunities to spark up a Hangout session.
In all, it's a nice spruce up, but why did Google go all out with a new design? Because they need more people to use Google+, that's why. The social network has been lambasted from the start for being a tiny oasis for serious Internet geeks but an afterthought for everyone else. Since so many people have Gmail accounts and that integrates with Google+, it was easy to get the number of users up. In last week's state-of-Google blog post Larry Page boasted that unique visits to Google+ had grown 27 percent in March and the social network now had 100 million active users. However, as Mashable's Todd Wasserman pointed out, "Page didn't outline how he defined 'active'. The level of activity fell under scrutiny after comScore released data showing that users spent just 3.3 minutes on Google+ in January compared to 7.5 hours for Facebook."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.