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.