April 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM ET
Now that Google+ is speeding toward the 200 million user mark, it's rolling out a revamped design that includes a new way to navigate the stream, "conversation cards," and a dedicated Hangouts page.
I checked mine today and I've still got the same old same old, but here's what I and other plussers have to look forward to within a few days, according to the blog post by Google senior vice-president Vic Gundotra:
A "dynamic ribbon of applications on the left" that replaces the "static icons" normally positioned at the upper left, next to the search bar. This new configuration is designed to allow access to most used or favorite apps faster, and to make it easier to make adjustments as your needs change and/or evolve. The gist of it is you can drag apps in whatever order you want and hover over some "to reveal a set of quick actions." If any annoy you, you can hide them or move them into the "More" category.
G+ also wants to make it easier for its users to scan/join discussions, and you'll soon see "a stream of conversation 'cards'" that are supposed to make this easier. What it looks like is a streamlined feed that will only show you the latest comment under a post, rather than the couple that you see now.
Also in your G+ future: "An activity drawer that highlights the community around your content."
The one thing I think really stands out in G+ are the photos and videos, and the redesign promises "full bleed" images and even bigger and better things with those visual elements. "Simply put, we're hoping to make sharing more awesome by making it more evocative," writes Gundotra. "You know that feeling you get when a piece of art takes your breath away, or when a friend stops by with unexpected gifts? We want sharing to feel like that, every single time."
Every. Single. Time.
High bar to set, but this is one area whereG+ really shines.
People who are into Hangouts will probably like that now there's a dedicated page just for that activity. From here, you'll be able to tap any of your friends for impromptu "Hey girl, what's up!" video chats because you'll have a constantly updated list of invites from your buddies. You can also play your own version of Chatroulette and join public and On Air chats more easily, or just watch, if you prefer.
If you find G+ at times a bit overwhelming and hard to wade through, a new Explore page might be the life preserver you need, as it "shows what's interesting and trending across the network."
There are definitely hints of Facebook's latest changes among the new additions, including "a new profile with much bigger photos" that looks a lot like the banner cover photos over on Timeline, as well as "a new chat list that puts your friends front and center" that should look familiar to those who use Facebook chat.
Facebook users who hate Timeline (and we know, there are plenty of you out there) might appreciate the relative simplicity of the G+ profile, which has a lot less clutter than the current Facebook profile.
Tell us what you think about the upcoming G+ changes and for now, check out the video about it, too: