January 23, 2012
Google+ User Base Soars To 9M While Critics Question Registration Practices
Some 9 months after returning to the helm of the world´s most beloved web juggernaut, Google CEO Larry Page was able to boast some impressive numbers at the company´s quarterly earnings call last week. According to the most current statistics, the internet giant´s social media network Google+ doubled its number of users in three months to 90 million.
And according to the report, those are just idle accounts. With some 60 percent of its registered users using the network daily and another 80 percent weekly, by all appearances Google+ seems to be making serious inroads into a market that´s been dominated for years by Mark Zuckerberg´s Facebook.
However, as critics have been quick to point out, those numbers don´t necessarily mean that Google+ users are engaging with the network in the same way or to the same extent that they do with Facebook.
The reason, they say, is that the statistics count any activity carried out by a user while they´re logged into a Google session. That means that checking a Gmail account, using Google Docs or even just searching the Internet while logged on counts as user activity.
Until now, Google has declined to release more specific statistics to the public showing exactly how many of its registered Google+ users are actually utilizing their social network function Plus on a daily or weekly basis.
And Google´s reason for stonewalling the media´s requests: It´s simply not important how many people are specifically using Google+. Unlike Facebook, they explain, Google+ is an integrated part of their users´ online experience. Thus what´s really important is how many users are engaging with any of Google´s sites because they´re all increasingly interconnected.
By contrast, Facebook´s 800 million active users – of which some 50 percent log on daily – is merely a single website.
Nonetheless, 90 million new users signing up in a little over half a year is still pretty impressive, right?
Not necessarily, say a number of critics. It might be deemed an astonishing feat if every user had deliberately registered for the service in the same way you have to create a new account with Facebook or Twitter. But with the increasingly tight integration of their various online products, some say many Google users are simply inadvertently registering for Google+ when signing up to use other services from the company.
And while a handful of reactionary blogs have falsely alleged that Google is requiring users of its various products to sign on for Google+ too, observers say that the company is making it increasingly complicated to use their other services without, at the same time, signing up for their social media platforms.
As the non-affiliated blog Google Operating System observed last week, newbie Google users are being given a Google+ account by default when they sign up for other products.
“If you try to create a Google account from Google´s homepage, you´ll notice that Google redesigned the page, but that´s not all,” wrote the bloggers.
“You´ll now have to create a Gmail account, a Google Profile and you´ll automatically join Google+.”
And the bloggers hinted that Google´s new registration practices were increasingly complex and not entirely unintrusive.
“Until now, creating a Google account was quite simple. You could either use an existing e-mail address or create a Gmail account. The redesigned form includes new fields: name, gender (required for Google+) and mobile phone number (not required),” they added.
The technology news and information site ARS Technica contacted Google last week to ask about the new registration protocol which it says was introduced last November.
A Google public relations representative commented that: “We hadn´t changed our Google Accounts sign-up flow in more than seven years, so it was due for a refresh.”
The new sign-up process, they added, is part of a broader strategy to create a smooth and seamless experience for their users.
“We´re working to develop a consistent sign-up flow across our different products as part of our efforts to create an intuitive, beautifully simple, Google-wide user experience. Making it quick and easy to create a Google Account and a Google profile enables new users to take advantage of everything Google can offer.”
Google was quick to point out that users who don´t want all their services can simply go to their account settings page to easily delete either their entire Google account or just parts of it, such as their Google+ profile.
And in fairness, wrote the Google Operating System blog, users can still go to the old Google sign-up page to register for an account without automatically being added to Google+ and Gmail.
The URL for the original sign-up page is: https://accounts.google.com/NewAccount
Google has as yet, however, declined to comment on how long the old-style registration page would remain available.
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