If you're one of the growing millions using Google+ for work or play, there was some news today from Google's I/O developer's conference that you might find useful. The search giant said it is rolling out more than 40 different changes to Google+ as part of a major redesign.
During the event's three-hour-long keynote presentation in San Francisco, Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra outlined a number of the changes, focusing on a new design for the news stream, a standalone Hangouts app and enhanced photo capabilities. The changes, he said, are part of an effort to simplify the user experience.
Since it launched about two years ago, Google says 190 million people are now active on the Google+ platform, with 390 million people using Google's social tools like the +1 button or making video calls in Gmail. Its user base is growing but still pales in comparison to Facebook's more than 1 billion active users or Twitter's 300 million.
Here's a look at some of the changes Gundotra discussed that are expected to roll out to users today:
A new stream for all types of devices: As more people switch between devices like smartphones, tablets and desktop computers, the engineers at Google wanted to adapt the Google+ stream so that it could be used easily no matter what device -- or what size screen -- is used. Starting today, the Google+ news stream will feature a multi-column layout. Users will see one, two or three columns depending on the size of their screen or the view settings selected. Photos and videos can span more than just one column, making them "nicer to look at," Gundotra said.
Updated content search with Related Hashtags: In a step to "go deeper" with search, Gundotra talked about a new feature called Related Hashtags. Google will read the text and scan the images in each post you upload and automatically assign them hashtags that your connections can click on for related content. Users can remove these auto tags and replace them if they're unwanted or incorrect, Gundotra said.
A new Hangouts app: Google has created a free standalone Hangouts app that combines not only live video but also text and photos. It will be available over Android, iOS and the web.
When a user opens the app, he or she will see a list of conversations, images and videos shared among his or her contacts. Since every interaction is saved in a user's history, he or she can access previous interactions with contacts. Users can opt to disable the history function if they don't want Google keeping tabs on all of their interactions.
Expanded image editing tools: The process of editing and uploading an album's worth of images can take a significant amount of time, so Google+'s new photo-editing tools aim to simplify and speed up that process, Gundotra said.
For adjusting images, Google+ is rolling out Auto Enhance, a suite of simple-to-use editing tools for things like skin softening, reducing red eye and adjusting brightness or contrast. A new Auto Highlight feature can scan your images to identify the best ones, meaning it can recognize pictures of important places or avoid duplicate images or those that are over or under exposed.
Google+ is also increasing the amount of free cloud storage space it offers users for higher resolution images -- 2,048 pixels and larger -- from 5 GB to 15 GB, Gundotra said.