Google+ suddenly twice as awesome
Google honcho +Vic Gundotra
announced this morning that Google has roughly doubled the awesomeness of Google+.
First, they added search. Finally! To me, this feature alone transforms the service from a "toy" into a "tool."
Second, G+ is open to the public -- no invitation required. It's now officially "beta," and no longer a "field trial."
The surprising improvements, however, are all about Hangouts.
Hangouts on your phone for Android users with a front-facing camera. (iOS version coming soon.) I'm personally shocked by this. I didn't expect mobile Hangouts to appear for a year or two.
Guntotra also announced "Hangouts On Air," which lets you live broadcast (to a huge audience) and record hangouts.
The setup is simple enough: Just start a normal hangout, and you’ll have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you’re “On Air,” up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast. (The feature is available initially to a few broadcasters.)
Hangouts are also getting screen sharing, "Sketchpad" for drawing pictures on screen, Google Docs integration and the ability to name your Hangouts. These are still in "beta," but you can try them by choosing “Try Hangouts with extras” in the green room.
Hangouts are also now extensible with newly announced APIs. Hangouts is now a platform.
These are all seriously cool and welcome improvements. (Note that many of the immediate improvements are being rolled out all day, so you may not have them just yet.)