Microsoft announced in the Office 365 Technology Blog a set of useful changes to the sharing features. The changes impact the user experience, governance, and administration of sharing.
I'm currently on the road, in Zagreb, Croatia at SharePoint Conference Adriatics. I wanted to get the information about these new features out to the community quickly, without access to my own lab environment, so I'm going to lovingly borrow Mark Kashman's screenshots from his blog post.
One Invitation to Multiple Invitees
The first change is a relatively small but welcome change related to the email that's sent when a document is shared with multiple users.
In the past, each user received a separate email. Now, a single email is sent with all users in the TO: line, and, in the CC: line, the user who did the sharing.
Now, if one of the users with whom content is being shared is an external user--that is, a user who doesn't have an account within the Office 365 tenancy--that user is emailed separately, because the link sent to that user must route them to the content through the feature that associates their email address with their Microsoft account.
What I've not tested, yet, is if content is being shared with an external user that has already signed in, once--so that their Microsoft account is registered with the site collection--will that user now be part of the "group" email...? Small point... Has anyone tested this yet?
Governance Change: Members Can Share
In the past, you had to have full control permission to share with external users. If a user without appropriate permission attempted to share, it created a site access request, which required a site collection administrator to approve, before the invitation is sent.
Now, a site collection administrator can configure the site to allow members to share with external users. The configuration is found in Site Settings, Site Permissions, Access Requests. A new checkbox now appears to allow members to share with external users.
Then, members of the site's default members group will be able to share with external users.
This setting is an addition to the existing sharing management settings. In the Office 365 tenancy, in SharePoint Settings, a service administrator can enable or disable external sharing, and allow guest links or require sign-in.
In Enterprise plans, each site collection can be configured to enable or disable external sharing, and allow guest links or require sign-in. The site collection's setting can be no more permissive than the setting of the tenancy, but can be more restrictive.
I'll Be the One to Say It: This Is Crappy Design
There's one potential problem I see with the implementation of this new change: It relies on the site's default members group.
That means, first, you must have one. One is created by default, but if you've deleted it, you're in trouble.
Second, I *hate* the fact that they're glomming a new permission onto an existing group.
In "normal" environments, the members group has "contribute" permission, and does NOT have "change permission" permission.
You're now adding a "change permission" permission *and* in fact a dangerous one, as it allows sharing not just with internal users but with external users, to a group that has typically not been very well managed--it's been the "catch all" group for people who need to work in the site.
This should have been done with a permission and permission level, and should be something I could assign to an existing group or a new group.
This is really crappy design, in my opinion. Boooooooo to Microsoft for the implementation of a should-be-welcomed new feature.
New Guest Link Capability
When you access the Share interface, there's a new tab, Get a Link. On this tab, you can click a button to obtain a link for View access and/or a link for Edit access.
You can then copy the links and use them to provide access, by sending a custom email for example and pasting the link into the email.
This functionality is identical to SkyDrive (consumer) and I like it a lot.
You can disable the links in the exact same location. Nice work, at least for end users. Though centralized management (reporting, disabling) of guest links is still a bit awkward.
New Sharing User Interface
The new tab is part of an overhaul of the Share interface. The result is nice and clean.
Example #1341 of the New World: Unexpected UI Changes
BUT this is yet another example of the new world in which we live. This change rolled out last week and caught some people unprepared. Including me.
I was leading a session in Amsterdam at SharePoint Connections about Sharing & Security. I went to demonstrate the Guest Link capability, and the entire UI had changed. It caught me completely off guard, in the middle of a presentation to 75 people. Sigh. The only thing constant is change, now.