Most of the tweaks involve using more white space, and menu bars alongside the page pointing to existing features. Some features look a little squirrelly - there's better integration with pictures taken on a phone than those that might already be on your home PC - and there's now an "explore" section that lets users see what people outside their circle are talking about, and choose how much of that to take in with a slide bar.
The name of the game here is face time. How long is your face on my site defines success. Facebook gets face time, in part, from games that appeal to younger people. Google has its games in a separate tab from its social network. LinkedIn gets its face time from people seeking work from one another. Google hopes that by attaching faces to its search function it can do the same for its Plus users.
One way few talk about how Google Plus is trying to maximize face time is that it does not yet have ads - Facebook is in full-on monetization mode.
Another way to increase face time is to let users control what's fed to them. Google's redesign is based on giving users control over that. A problem is that many users aren't very good at using such control tools. So Google is putting video instructions near the top of many pages, hoping users will educate themselves.
Google will be buoyed in this effort by a new poll showing that it's more popular, in a purely political sense, than rivals Facebook, Apple, and Twitter.
This is an important result, because in many ways the mass use of a brand means it must have some political potency. The results of the survey aren't terrible for Facebook - most have a favorable view of the brand - but few probably thought Google would be more popular with the public at this point than Apple (AAPL).
What Google bears will point out, quite rightly, is that Google is not yet monetizing its advantages. It is still dependent on advertising and doesn't advertise on popular services like Plus or Google News. The bullish case will be that this shows how much potential the company has for growth, even with its current business model.
Right now the stock is at $640 based on an assumption that Thursday's earnings will beat the "whisper numbers" of $9.64 per share profit on revenue of $8.1 billion. That would put revenues below last year's first quarter, but nearly double per-share earnings from that period.
Investors need to know, however, that this is likely to be the last quarter Google will report before the acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI) is completed. As previously noted, MMI will add roughly 30% to revenues but nothing to income, dropping profit margins from their current level of 25% to something below 20%.
That loss could be offset with increased monetization on features like News or Plus. Investors will be looking closely for that.