Google+ is constantly compared to Facebook and under extreme pressure to perform but is that pressure realistic?
Every time someone posts an estimate of the number of Google+ users the tech media explodes with a glut of stories and posts proclaiming the service to be either a failure or proving its success depending on the point of view or prejudice of the author. Now is no exception.
Using the recent figures showing that there are 625,000 new sign-ups every day it has been suggested that Google+ could hit 400 million users by the end of 2012. To be honest, the idea seems a bit preposterous.
Sign-ups v active users
No doubt a lot of the "users" have come from people rushing to buy a new Galaxy Nexus - the flagship Android ICS device which includes the Google+ application and signs you up by default. But how many of these users will actually be active in a social context?
The current rate of increase in Android activations cannot continue forever and Google cannot rely on this solely for number generation, so we have to wonder when the market will hit saturation point.
I stated before that it is probably wrong to focus on the Google+ user numbers in the same way that we do with Twitter or Facebook as Google+ is designed to be as much as social layer and identity service as a social network. Rather than repeat myself ad nauseam I would recommend reading that post as the comments still hold true.
When theoretically every Google user is a potential Plus user Google don't have any issues attracting raw numbers - the challenge is to encourage those people to use at least some of the social functionality on offer
Android users may have auto-upload turned on but unless they are fully educated in exactly what this does and how you then manage your photo albums online Google will just end up with a huge volume of pictures doing nothing but take up storage space. Also, if users do not see the benefit they will simply disable auto-upload in order to save on their monthly data allowances.
A working layer
As I have mentioned, the challenge is in fully developing the social layer so that people "use" Plus even when they are utilising another service and may not be fully aware that they are doing so.
We must keep returning to the quote "Google+ is Google". Ultimately, the goal is that everything we do within the Google ecosystem will contribute to, or be influenced by Plus, in some way. They may have built the "Plus" and now need to build the Google part but it seems that the bulk of development is still with the Plus aspect rather than fleshing out the social layer.
There is currently one way traffic out of Plus with Google using the content we provide to modify search results in an aim to make them more relevant (a free crowd sourced filter) and all we have flowing in the other direction are items shared using the +1 button - hardly breaking any new ground yet.
Admittedly, Plus is only 6 months old (at least for those of us outside the Googleplex) but Google are making promises of the service that are so far-reaching in nature that they could take an exceptionally long time to see the light of day. Plus, therefore, runs the risk of being a casualty of its own hype if it takes too long for the layer functionality to fully materialise.
I have said previously that we "must allow the service to develop, improve and grow" and "afford it the opportunity to fulfill its potential" but our patience must not be tested.
Despite what Google have been saying we still have an issue with perception. They are quick to release the small changes but we need to start seeing the meat to flesh out the bones.
Why not discuss this post on Google+?
Image by stacyjclinton