Google has been hard at work living up to their promise to roll out new Google+ features and that hard work is really showing this week. They’ve launched several important new privacy features and improved Hangouts yet again.
Privacy & Commenting
On the privacy front, Google Community Manager Natalie Villalobos posted on Google+ about enhancements to Google+ settings that let you choose who can comment on your public posts. By default, public posts are limited to Anyone, meaning anyone on Google+ of course. But if you want to change that default, your Google+ settings give you as much control as you could possibly want, right down to the level of specifying which individual people, or circles of people, are allowed to comment. It’s hard to complain about that level of control.
Google’s been busy enhancing their already incredibly popular Hangouts feature too, with a number of exciting new additions. First off, hangouts are much easier to find than ever before. You may already have noticed the Hangouts alerts down the right side of the main Google+ page. It will alert you of up to 3 live hangouts at a time. If you’re invited to a hangout, a mobile alert will let you know. (Unless you disable it of course.)
Hangouts in Posts
Hangouts are now easier to start than ever, too. Look on any and every post on Google+ and you’ll find “Hangout” has become an option right along with Comment and Share. If you start a Hangout on a post, the post itself will contain an invitation that people can use to join in.
Hangouts On Air
You’ve undoubtedly heard of and possibly seen On Air hangouts by celebrities like Will.i.am, the Muppets and a few others over the last few months. This On Air feature is now more widely available, with a large number of celebrities and G+ users with large numbers of followers gaining access to it.
These people will no longer need Google’s assistance to set it up; they’ll be able to go on air whenever they feel like it. And when they do, the hangout video will be privately saved to their YouTube accounts.
Best of all though is that this is all in anticipation of Google making On Air hangouts available to everyone! They’re not quite ready to bring it out for everybody, but this is a big step in that direction.
Hangouts From Messenger
It’s always seemed a little odd that Hangouts are a desktop-only feature, but that won’t be true for much longer. Now Android and iOS users can get in on the fun as well. The Android Marketplace should have an updated G+ app within a few days that will allow mobile users to hangout, and a similar update for iOS is making its way through the App Store approval process.
Hangouts by Phone
You don’t have to have a smart phone to take part in Hangouts either. Want to bring mom or dad in on a family hangout but they’re not computer-savvy? No problem. Dial them up and they can talk with everyone anyway. Calls to the US and Canada are free, and very inexpensive in the rest of the world. (Fellow Canadians, alas, this looks like it uses Google Voice, so we probably can’t take advantage. I can’t confirm that yet though.)
If you have any thoughts on these updates, let us know in the comments!