google_plus.pngGoogle+ has finally opened its doors to the public. You might notice the huge blue arrow on that takes up nearly a quarter of the page.

For Google, the timing could not be better as it comes just a couple of days before Facebook launches a host of new features at the f8 developers conference today. This is a timely distraction to show users that Google is actively expanding into social.

Along with Facebook, Google+ competes in the social networking space with companies such as LinkedIn and Twitter as the battle for rapidly growing ad dollars to social media sites intensifies.

Since its initial launch in June, Google+ had been in the trial phase until now with the public having access through an “invite only” basis. With the social network being moved to Beta phase, Google+ is now open for all to join.

The big question is whether Google can see the same accelerated growth in users that it has seen these three months. By the start of August itself, Google+ had around 25 million users. 

It also does not seem a mere coincidence that Google’s announcement comes so close to Facebook’s Developers Conference, f8. Google is probably hoping to grab some eyeballs away from the f8 where Facebook is expected to reveal a host of new services, including the much-hyped music service.

Interestingly, Facebook has recently incorporated certain changes, some of which look similar to a Google+ layout. For instance, users can add subgroups for “friends” such as “close friends”, “acquaintances” and custom groups based on schools or other affiliations. Facebook also looks to be testing the quality, size and positioning of images on the news feed, which was just redesigned this week.