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Google Opens Social Network to All Users, Adds Features

Google Inc., which started its Google+ social network in June as an invitation-only service, is opening the site to all users and rolling out new video-chat and search tools to attract more members.

The company is making its Hangouts feature, which enables group videoconferences, available on mobile phones and for live broadcasts on the Web, wrote Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering, in a blog post. Mountain View, California-based Google also is adding new search capabilities to the social site, which had about 29 million visitors in July, according to ComScore Inc.

With the changes, Google has boosted the number of Google+ features to 100, an effort to woo users and compete with Palo Alto, California-based Facebook Inc., the biggest social network, with more than 750 million members. Google unveiled an online-game service last month with developers such as Zynga Inc., maker of the Facebook game “FarmVille,” and Rovio Entertainment Oy, creator of the hit “Angry Birds.”

“For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal,” Gundotra wrote. “We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups.”

The new search service will find content such as photos from within Google+ and around the Web, he said. More than 1 billion items are shared daily on the site, he said.

As part of the improvements to Hangouts, the company is planning to enable new ways to share content. That includes showing friends what’s on a user’s computer screen, such as photos or lesson plans; sharing drawings on a digital sketchpad; and incorporating Google Docs, including word-processing documents.

Google fell 5 cents to $546.63 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The stock has declined 8 percent this year.

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