Google+, Google's burgeoning social networking platform, is finally opening its doors to all with the news that Google Apps users will now be allowed to sign up for a profile on the service.
When Google launched its answer to the popularity of Facebook, it was a closed beta. Despite this - and possibly thanks to a loophole that allowed people to invite others onto the service slightly before Google intended - Google+ grew rapidly, and was soon opened for all to use.
Well, almost all: while anyone with a standard Google account was invited to make a home for themselves on Google+, those who have Google Apps accounts were left out in the cold.
Google Apps is the company's - usually - paid-for service that adds uptime guarantees, support and enterprise-level administrative functionality to all of Google's multifarious services. It's a handy facility, but one which often ends up being locked out of new features.
Google+ was a case in point: until late yesterday, it was impossible for a Google Apps users to sign up for the service without creating a brand-new second account, separate from their Apps login.
"Starting now you can manually turn on Google+ for your organisation," crowed Google's Ronald Ho of the change. "Once Google+ is turned on, your users will just need to sign up at google.com/+ to get started. For customers who use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and who have chosen to automatically enable new services, Google+ will automatically become available to all of your users over the next several days."
Google Apps users who decide to sign up for the service - assuming whomever is in control of the overall Google Apps account enables access - will have all the facilities a regular Google user has, along with a special 'circle' containing all the members of their Google Apps organisation.
The move has triggered some criticism, however: by default, it's possible for the administrator of a Google Apps account to view data posted by a Google+ user via that account, even if the data is flagged as private or shared only with select circles.