Google+: The right service at the right time

Many of the arguments against social networking that apply to Facebook don't carry over to Google+. It looks like Google has another home run on its hands

I don't turn into a fanboy very often, but for Google+ I'll make an exception.

There are plenty of bugs, frustrations, and annoyances, but if Google opens up the plumbing and lets developers work with a sufficiently advanced API -- at this point, all indications point in that direction -- Google+ has the potential to turn ubiquitous. Google has a long history of creating and cooperating with Web standards efforts -- its OpenSocial API is a good example -- so hopes are high. Developers can sign up to get notifications about emerging details.

Edd Dumbill, posting on the O'Reilly Radar blog, calls Google+ the start of a commodity social layer, and he's hit the nail on the head: "Google+ is the rapidly growing seed of a Web-wide social backbone, and the catalyst for the ultimate uniting of the social graph. All it will take on Google's part is a step of openness to bring about such a commoditization of the social layer."

The infrastructure's moving in and the response has been phenomenal. Yesterday, in my article that explained how Google's sweetening the pot for prospective Google Apps subscribers, I wrote that the number of people signed up for Google+ might have hit 20 million. Late last night, Google+ afficionado Paul Allen (no, not the Microsoft Paul Allen) reported that, by his reckoning, Google+ stood at 18 million users.

Paul uses a strange technique for estimating the total number of registered users, which relies on counting the number of American Google+ users with specific last names, then extrapolating for the total worldwide. Vincenzo Lombino, using a completely different estimation technique that includes such imponderables as the number of Mark Zuckerberg followers on Google+, came up with 20 million this morning.

That compares to Google's announcement that "more than 10 million" people had signed up as of last Tuesday. Yes, the number of registered Google+ users has just about doubled in the past eight days.

The 2-million-new-users-per-day pace has fallen back a little bit. As Allen puts it, "the last four days have averaged only 948,000 new users, and yesterday the site added only 763,000. Yesterday's growth of 4.47 percent was the slowest viral growth since Google opened up invites back on July 6." Hold your breath for a second. He's saying that 4.47 percent growth in one day is the slowest day-to-day increase ever.

If your company has a social networking strategy for customers, there's a new player in town and it would behoove you to come up to speed quickly. If you use social networking internally, with a locked-down product like Lync Server, you're going to hear a lot of grumbling from the troops about the freedom afforded by Google+. And if your company is still trying to put a cap on Facebook, the toothpaste is about to squeeze out of the tube -- in a different direction.

Many of the old anti-social-networking arguments that apply to Facebook don't carry over to Google+. There's far greater control over who can see what and when. Couple that with fewer security concerns -- or at least security concerns that crop up in quite different scenarios -- and your users are going to have a lot of credible arguments for going social with a corporate blessing.

Google+ has been out for two weeks, and it's starting to look like Google hit one out of the park.

This story, "Google+: The right service at the right time," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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