A new update to Google+ struck yesterday, but it doesn't appear to include any visible changes. However, a look through the APK points to a new built-in feature for bookmarking posts to open again in the future. There's also a warning that Events are likely to be shut down sometime soon, and one line raises some questions about the upcoming titles feature.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Starring / Bookmarking posts
Most social networks are designed to constantly keep moving older posts out of view and to quickly put new content in front of users. That combined with the already ephemeral nature that comes from non-chronological sorting – an algorithmic king of the hill, you might say – it's pretty easy to lose interesting posts and never be able to find them again without knowing exactly when and by whom something was posted.
If you stumble across a real gem that's worth coming back to, most social networks provide no means of tracking posts. Google+ is about to change that. There are new signs that the team is working on a bookmarking feature for keeping a list of posts for future reference.
<string name="bookmark_activity_label">Starred Posts</string>
<string name="bookmark_stream_empty">No starred posts.</string><activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.plus.bookmark.stream.BookmarkActivity" android:exported="false" android:label="@string/bookmark_activity_label" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.plus.phone.HomeActivity" android:theme="@style/Theme.Plus" />/layout/bookmark_activity.xml
The names of all of the resources show that this was originally called bookmarking, but the current strings and the design of the button make it clear that the feature will be referred to as starring. In either case, the purpose for this is to flag posts so they'll appear in a list you can browse through and reopen later.
Google+ does attract a generally technical crowd, and posts there tend to be longer and more structured like blog posts despite the somewhat limited formatting options (that are hopefully expanding soon). It makes sense that users are more likely to find posts worth returning to in the future, so a built-in feature for tracking that would relieve the need for workarounds like re-sharing posts into collections or sending links to other apps for safe keeping. I would also have to assume that starred posts will be available across all devices and the web for easy access.
The Events feature will be shut down
Many moons ago, Google+ introduced Events. Facebook and other services offered a similar feature, but there were some novel additions like Party Mode and integration with Google Calendar. It even played a minor role during Google I/O 2012 as attendees were encouraged to group share photos during the show. For a long time after that, Events went unchanged.
Then came the big reimplementation of Google+ near the end of 2015. One of the side effects of the change was that Events completely fell out of the interface. Of course, you could switch back to the classic view to continue using Events, but who wants to switch back and forth? A little over a year later, Google+ added Events to the new interface, just in time to shut down the classic UI. That brings us up to date.
And I now have to tell you that Events won't be long for this world. Here's the message that has been added to the APK.
Events are being removed from Google+ and event creation is no longer available. Learn more about downloading your Events content.
No dates are given and this message isn't appearing yet, but there's no mistaking the meaning. Google traditionally gives a warning before the shutdown of features like this, then gives several months (or years) for people to come to terms with the scheduled termination. As far as I can tell, there hasn't been a warning or notice, and this message reads like a hard stop to new events. This leads me to assume there probably hasn't been enough usage to even justify a warning. Nevertheless, if you want to extract the data about past events, there will be instructions to download it, likely through Google Takeout.
Follow-up: Post titles
In a previous teardown, signs started popping up for a potential enhancement to posts that might allow for dedicated titles separate from the body of the post. In the latest update, text was added for an error message that may raise some questions about the availability of titles.
The error basically explains that titles aren't supported if you're posting outside of your domain. That might not make a lot of sense to most readers, but Google+ can also operate as an internal social network for businesses. These mini-networks for businesses are referred to as domains.
Messages like this are littered throughout Google apps, and in situations like this, they can occasionally mean that features are limited to business accounts. In this case, I find it hard to imagine that Google+ would restrict titles to just business networks; but I'm also having trouble imagining there's a good reason to restrict titles so they are only visible within a group. Perhaps this message is only relevant while titles are in development and testing groups are the only domains that see them, then the message will cease to be useful when titles roll out. We'll see what happens, but it would be a shame if titles weren't available to the general public.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.