Have you been using Google+ lately? If you have, you haven't been alone. According to Google, the number of monthly active users on Google+ jumped from 390 million in May to 540 million users today.
"With 540 million people active across Google each month, 300 million people active in just the stream and more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded every week, the Google+ community is growing faster than we ever could have imagined," wrote Vic Gundotra, a Google senior vice president, in a blog post. "Today's updates are our way of saying 'thank you.' We hope they save you time and help you share your story."
And in that vein, Google announced improvements to Google+ Hangouts and the photo feature that are aimed at making it easier to message, photo edit and make video calls.
For Hangouts, Google has tried to tweaked the video calling experience, making it full screen across both mobile and desktops and enhancing webcam lighting automatically.
Hangouts for Android now supports location sharing and SMS. "This way you can send a map of your current location versus finding and typing an address, and you can send and receive SMS versus switching between apps," wrote Gundotra. "Animated GIFs also play inline."
The Android app and video calling features will be available in a few days, according to Google.
Google is also moving to make it easier to save, organize, edit and share photos and videos on Google+.
Gundotra said with Google+ for iOS, users will have their photos and video automatically backed up as they take them with the addition of full-size backups and background sync.
Google also is using its expertise in search to make it easier for users to find the one photo they're looking for out of the thousands they've taken. Google+ now recognizes 1,000 different objects, including sunsets and snowmen, so users can type in a search for the photo they're looking for in their photo library.
Other photo updates include automatic enhancements, tools for editing on the go, and the ability to erase unwanted moving objects , such as a car in the background, from a photo.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.