MOUNTAIN VIEW (AP) — Google is introducing more tools to automatically edit images posted on its Plus networking service in its latest attempt to lure traffic away from Facebook and other online hangouts.
Most of the 18 new features unveiled Tuesday rely on technology designed to identify the photos and videos that are likely to be the most important to the individual users of Plus. Google Inc. launched the service two years ago as an alternative to Facebook's pace-setting social network.
Plus has a long way to go to catch up to Facebook. Plus now has 540 million active monthly users, up from 390 million in May. But many of those users may only be watching a YouTube video while logged into Google. Facebook has nearly 1.2 billion active users.
In Google's attempt to turn Plus into a photo-sharing hub, it added an assortment of automatic ways to manage images on Plus five months ago. The latest features build upon those innovations. Attracting more video to Plus is less important to Google because the Mountain View, Calif., company already owns YouTube, the Internet's most popular destination for posting clips.
"At Google, we are looking at doing nothing less than revolutionizing the field of photography," said Vic Gundotra, the company's senior vice president of social.
Google's new editing tools can automatically touch up images or perform tricks such as erasing people from photos or creating animated GIFs — stringing together multiple images to make it seem like the subject of a picture is moving.
Another feature will create a short movie set to music when a user selects different videos and pictures to mix together.
Snapseed, a Google-owned mobile application that competes against Facebook Inc.'s Instagram photo app, also is getting a new filter to improve the appearance of landscapes and structures.
Google has been focusing on building better image-management tools because a growing number of people are posting videos and photos online on social networking services.
About 54 percent of Internet users now post their own pictures or video online, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
Google says about 1.5 billion photos are being shared on Plus each week. Facebook recently said about 350 million pictures are being shared per day, or more than 2.4 billion per week. Millions more are shared on Instagram, which Facebook bought last year.
Snapchat also has become a popular spot for sharing photos, especially among people between 18 and 29 years old, according to Pew's survey. Unlike Google Plus, Facebook and other services, Snapchat wipes out the pictures once they have been viewed.