Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) rolled out several upgrades to Google+, including the long-awaited integration of Google Apps with the fledgling social network.
IT administrators can now manually turn on Google+ for their corporate employees, after which workers can sign up at google.com/+. The social network will become automatically available in the next several days to those who use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and who have set up their domain to automatically enable new services.
However, Google+ requires Picasa Web Albums for photo sharing and Google Talk for chat, so if these services have not been enabled, then Google+ will not automatically become available. Domain admins can automatically enable new services in the Domain settings tab of the admin control panel.
Like existing Google+ users, Google Apps users will be able to share publicly or privately with their circles. However, they'll also be able to share with every worker in their company or member in their organization even if some of those colleagues haven't been added to a Circle.
What is the value proposition of blending Google Apps with Google+? It's a fair question, and one that Google laid the groundwork for in September when it launched Google+ Hangouts with extras, which melds Hangouts with extras. One of the extras mashes up multi-person video chat with screen sharing and collaboration in Google Docs, the Web-based document applications suite in Google Apps.
Ideally, this will enable Google Apps to compete with other social-collaboration services from Salesforce.com, Jive Software, Socialtext, MindTouch and Yammer. Those companies all offer Web-based software platforms that let workers create and edit documents, post status updates and share content in a private domain.
Google is also making it possible for existing Google+ users who own a personal Google Account to use their Google Apps account via a migration tool. The idea is that those users needn't rebuild their Circles, which can be tedious and cumbersome. Moreover, people who've already added those users to their circles will automatically be connected to their new profile.
The marriage of Google+ and Google Apps makes good on the promise Google Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra made at the Web 2.0 Summit Oct. 19, when he indicated Google+ and Google Apps would be wed very soon. The company didn't stop there, adding a few more fun features to Google+.
In the spirit of Oct. 31, also known in the Western Hemisphere as Halloween, the Google+ Creative Kit lets users edit their profile and other Google+ photos. These include Halloween effects. Users can open a photo, select edit and pick Halloween effects to put fangs, fake hair, demon eyes and other creepy accoutrements on their pictures.
Through the end of October, users can make their photos a bit more frightening and share them publicly on Google+ using the hashtag #gplushalloween. Google will assemble a celebrity panel that will announce their favorites on Thursday, Nov 3.
Google also added Google+ Ripples, which lets users replay publicly shared comments and status updates. Users must select the View Ripples option in the dropdown menu to the right of each post to replay the conversation of update stream.
At the point, users will see the activity in a graphical interface, and can zoom in and out on posts. See what Ripples look like here.
Finally, Google has aped Twitter trends by adding a "What's Hot" option in Google+ Streams and in the left-hand rail. Google explains "What's Hot" and in this YouTube video.