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Google+: The “fastest-growing network thingy ever”

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Here’s something that might make you actually want to use Google+.

Google added a new Community feature today to bring people together around shared interests, whether it’s photography, a sports team, local politics, fashion, or Star Wars. After the feature starts showing up for users today, anyone will be create a community and make it public or private.

Inside communities, plussers (is that what they’re called?) can start Hangouts and organize events with other community members. They’ll have the option of sharing things with the community from around the Web using the +1 button as conversation starters. Discussion categories will let users filter conversations in specific communities as well.

But are there actually any people with whom you can have a conversation? Despite the trope that Google+ is little more than a ghost town, Google claims that more than 500 million people have signed up to Google+, or at least joined it using their existing Google accounts. More importantly,Google says 135 million people are actively using their stream, prompting the self-proclaimed tagline “the fastest-growing network thingy ever.”

By its own admission, Google+ hasn’t made it easy for people who are interested in the same topics to find each other and have a permanent home for those discussions. It added hashtag support some time ago to help organize conversations, along with the Explore feature, but the addition of Communities is certainly a step in the right direction.

In fact, Google+ Communities has a leg up on Facebook Groups and Reddit's subreddits in that it lets community members chat face to face and even post that discussion to YouTube. The aim seems to be pulling all of Google’s core features together in a way that will help individual communities grow and share things with each other, even if it is pinching an idea from another of Google’s networks, Orkut.

Photo via Google/YouTube