Google spruces up its budding social network

Google on Wednesday spruced up its budding online social network to make it more enticing in a market ruled by Facebook.

"We think you'll find it easier to use and nicer to look at," Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra said in a blog post announcing the rollout of a new version of Google+ social network.

"Most importantly, it accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google," he continued.

Upgrades included putting navigation tools in customizable panels on the left side of home pages and raising the profiles of video chat "hangouts" that have become a popular Google+ feature.

Google also improved the presentation of pictures or video posted at the social network, which it said has grown to more than 170 million users since its launch in June of last year.

"It's still early days, and there's plenty left to do, but we're more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google," Gundotra said. "We're aiming for an experience that fuses utility with beauty."

World-leading social network Facebook boasts about 840 million members and just made a billion-dollar deal to buy Instagram, the startup behind a popular smartphone application for sharing pictures.

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