Six Months of Google+: Where Does Google’s Social Network Stand?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been six months since the launch of Google+, the search giant’s social network and so-called Facebook/Twitter competitor. Six months ago, there were only two social networking players in town: Facebook and Twitter. Some argue that it’s still the case. Like all shiny new things, Google+ was all the rage when it launched on June 28. Early adopters jumped on board, mostly forgetting the disaster that was Google Buzz. It took less than a month for the social network to hit 10 million users, and it has been adding approximately 10 million users per month ever since. founder Paul Allen claims that there are now more than 62+ million Google+ users and is adding 625,000 new users per day. The social network has also evolved rapidly since its launch. By my count, Google has launched more than 150 G+ features since the social network’s debut. This includes a slew of new Hangout features, search functionality, G+ Games and the first pieces of the Google+ API. There’s no denying it: the development speed of Google+ has been astronomical. A lot of it has to do with its desire to catch up with Facebook’s feature set, but it’s still a sign of the deep commitment the search giant has made to social.

But Where Does Google+ Stand?

Google has been adding users and features to Google+, but how active are those users? Will they stick with the social network? Is it too little, too late? Google, for one, has been pleased with Google+’s growth so far. SVP of Social Vic Gundotra has told me, on multiple occasions, that Google+’s growth has beaten the company’s expectations. And internally, the team is happy with what they’ve built, if not a little tired from a brutal six month development schedule. It hasn’t made much of a dent in Facebook’s rapid ascension, though. Facebook continues to move forward with its $100 billion IPO next year, it continues to poach Google’s top engineers and the launch of Timeline has so far been a success. Plus, developers continue to rely on Facebook Connect as a key source of identity information. Even Google+’s users are mixed on whether the social network has lived up to expectations. Here’s what my G+ followers had to say about whether Google+ lived up to its potential:
  • “Google+ continues to meet my expectations. It has completely replaced Twitter for me but not Facebook only because my friends and family are still on Facebook. I hate Facebook and really wish the people would move over.” ~ Sherry Heyl
  • “Erm, it turned out completely different from what I expected. I thought it would be a cleaner neater Facebook. But, it’s brought me lots of cool new people and content from all over the internet that’s super addictive.” ~ Christina Hall
  • “I would say it’s exceeded expectations in “Twitter space”, things like following tech journalists and news providers, but under-performed in “Facebook space”, networking with friends. The former is due to the great rich media and blog-like posts on here. The latter is due to the lack of uptake by my social circles.” ~ Paul Hughes
  • “Honestly it exceeded my expectations. The way you can control who sees your stream, hangout is just awesome, full google product integration, and yes there are no annoying event request or thoughtless 140 character limits. The ability to control your stream is simple and it just works.” ~ Bim Star

Is Google+ a Success or a Failure?

Google+ has more than 60 million users, but it hasn’t done anything to Facebook or Twitter. It has a hardcore group of active users, but others have dropped off the G+ map. Google has launched more than 150 new features for its social network, but Facebook remains several steps ahead. After six months, is Google+ a success or a failure? It’s all about what you expected from Google+. If you thought that Google could plow Facebook into submission like Microsoft did to Netscape, then G+ has been an abject failure. If you thought that G+ would flop like Buzz, then G+ has been a total success. Success isn’t a short-term game to Google, though. Google+ will hook into every aspect of the Google empire, from search to Gmail. The theory is that social will improve the usefulness of all its products and increase Google’s staying power in the market. Google+ is a shield, rather than a sword, in the fight against Facebook. It was designed as a counterbalance to the dominance Facebook has in the market. And while that dominance hasn’t waned, at least Google doesn’t have to depend on Facebook for social. That would be the ultimate failure on Google’s part. In that sense, Google+ is a success. It hasn’t collapsed, and people are still using it. We’ll see if that still holds true six months from now. The Social Analyst is a column by Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.
  • wiliam lucieto

    Gentlemen, would be a strong commitment to work in your company, you forward all the expectations that we are waiting for 2012 will be a year of turmoil, of course all this is (really). I will not explain everything to you, let’s wait for 2012 (I will always be available! Happy passage.)

  • Brandon C. Hubbard™

    Best tech quote of the week: “Google+ is a shield, rather than a sword, in the fight against Facebook.” Imagine if Bing ever got its act together and took off (along with the current alliance with Facebook and all)?

  • Marc Ostrick

    Nice article, Ben.  Hope you are well and happy New Year!

  • Nathan Bonilla-Warford

    “mostly forgetting the disaster that was Google Buzz.”

    I don’t remember anyone forgetting what a disaster Buzz was. What I do remember is myself and others being surprised that G+ wasn’t an immediate train wreck like Buzz and Wave.

    Overall, I agree with Christina Hall. Different and better. Pretty much a FB and Twitter killer for me personally.

  • Anonymous

    I like Google+ so far. It provides another outlet to meet new people, promote, as well as a much more intimate method of interaction with the Hangouts. I am still just getting started, but I already have my own personal profile set up and am working on my brand page. It’s easy to use and I ls even that you can put people in circles. I think it’s easy, and simple and an overall great addition to the social media networks already out there!

  • Michael Cobases

    I think Google+ is on half way to their success and they have much more to offer. I like the idea that I need only one account to access so many services that Google offers. It’s like one account that you need to get access to the entire web. 
    As Google is still number one website by number of unique visitors so they have power to push their social site through the roof.

  • Ace Manum

    It’s still in the “maybe” territory, just like twitter was before the celebs jumped on.
    Most people on there are social-media & IT people, with sprinkles of celebs, brands & regular joes/janes. Paul Hughes is right, it’s evolving in a twitter-esque direction, with facebook-like flexibility.
    Is it really going anywhere? That’s yet to be seen.

  • Ben Dantoni

    If you’re asking the question if G+ is a success or failure, then you need to spend more time on G+.  I have spent more time actively engaged on G+ in the past month, then I did on 5+ years of FB.  I predict G+ will explode next year, reaching over a billion users by the end of 2012, and becoming the primary social network of the planet.

  • devinder

    Google plus is neither a success nor failure till now. It depends upon how a User takes it.

    For me, i am Social Media Editor It is something very important for my blog as Google plus has the capability to help SEO of the Blog.

    And for someone who just want to hang around, enjoy, want to see what his/her friends are doing etc don’t really bother to do that on Google Plus if they already have Facebook and twitter.

    Bottom Line: Google Plus is important but not needed.