Google has introduced a new Communities feature for users of its Google+ social network that can be used to create commercial and non-commercial interest groups.
The Communities feature is similar to Facebook Groups and users can set them to be private or public and use Google+ Hangouts and events with members.
In an update of user numbers for the service on the Officlal Google blog, the company's senior vice president Vic Gundotra said that more than 500 million people have "upgraded" to the service and it has 235 million active users who rate apps in Google Play with +1 buttons, access Google+ via Gmail or Search.
Gundotra said that 135 million users are active in the Google+ stream.
By comparison, social media analyst firm Semiocast said that by June this year, Twitter hit half a billion accounts and social network Facebook claims to have a billion monthly active users as of October 2012.
Google also announced its free Instragram competitor, Snapseed, for Android and iOS devices, which provides similar creative filters for photos and image adjustment features.
Snapseed also lets users share images via Google+ and other social services.