Google has finally integrated Google Apps into its Google+ social-networking service, allowing customers to use the same digital identities across both services.
"Google Apps users will have access to the same set of features that are available to every Google+ user, and more," Google Product Manager Ronald Ho wrote in a blog post. "In addition to sharing publicly or with your Circles, you'll also have the option to share with everyone in your organization, even if you haven't added all of those people to a Circle."
Separately, Google added a few other, more consumer-focused features, include What's Hot, which lets users keep tabs on the most popular posts of the moment. The company also has added a visualization tool, called Ripples, that allows Google+ users to see how conversations unfold.
For many businesses, though, the integration with Google Apps is overdue. Workers couldn't use their Google Apps identifications to plug into Google+. Now Google has given corporate tech managers tools to turn on Google+ for their businesses. Ho acknowledge that integrating the two services "took more technical work than we expected."
The goal is to get workers to tap into the services, such as its Hangouts video conferencing feature, as they do their jobs. What's more, companies can create Circles, groups of Google+ users with similar characteristics, of their entire company, or subsets of employees. That way, employees can target their posts to those specific colleagues.
Google has also integrated Google Docs into the service. Now, users can collaborate on the same document while holding a Hangouts video conference. One employee might chat about a fix she's making to a paper while a colleague looks on and offers comments as the changes are being made.
The company listed a handful of universities that are already Google Apps for Education customers that are rolling out the integrated Google+ today, including the University of Washington, the University of Notre Dame, and Arizona State University.
Google+ already has 40 million users, many of whom also have Google Apps accounts. Ho says the company is working on a migration tool to help users move their personal Google+ subscription over to their workplace Google Apps accounts. That should be ready "in a few weeks," Ho wrote. In the meantime, existing Google+ users will have to manage two separate accounts if they want to use the new Google Apps integration.
The new consumer features announced today will roll out gradually, according to a Google spokeswoman. What's Hot offers users the opportunity to see what matters to other Google+ users.
Ripples will let users zoom in on specific topics to see who has contributed most to the conversation around it. They can pull back to see more broadly how that topic is playing over the entire Google+ network. Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra said in the blog post that Ripples is "still experimental."
Finally, Google+ has added Creative Kit, tools for editing and enhancing photos that users post to the network. It includes familiar tools that let folks sharpen and crop photos. The company has also added the ability to include a little pizzazz to the shot, giving it a vintage hue or putting masks and fangs on people in time for Halloween.
Updated with more details and analysis at 11:44 a.m. PT.