|This article is outdated. (April 2013)|
|Type||Social networking service
|Foundation date||Mountain View, California, U.S. (2011 )|
|Headquarters||Mountain View, California, U.S.|
|Area served||Worldwide (2011–present)|
|Key people||Larry Page - (Co-founder)
Sergey Brin - (Co-founder)
Vic Gundotra - (Senior Vice President)
Bradley Horowitz - (Vice President Product)
|Users||500 million (December 2012)|
Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus, sometimes abbreviated as G+ or GPlus) is a multilingual social networking and identity service owned and operated by Google Inc. It is the second largest social networking site in the world, having surpassed Twitter in January 2013. As of December 2012[update], it has a total of 500 million registered users, of whom 235 million are active in a given month. Google has described Google+ as a "social layer" that enhances many of its online properties, unlike conventional social networks generally accessed through a single website.
Google launched the Google+ service as an invitation-only "field test" on June 28, 2011, but soon suspended early invites due to an "insane demand" for new accounts. On August 6, each Google+ member had 150 invitations to give out until September 20, 2011, when Google+ opened to everyone 18 years of age or older without the need for an invitation. It was opened for a younger age group (13 years or older in US and most countries, 14 or older in South Korea and Spain, 16 or older in the Netherlands) on January 26, 2012. Google+ is available as a website and on mobile devices.
Before the launch, Google referred to Google+ as Google Circles, a name alluding to its emphasis on organising friendship information. Google+ is considered the company's fourth foray into social networking, following Google Buzz (launched 2010, retired in 2011), Google Friend Connect (launched 2008, retired by March 1, 2012) and Orkut (launched in 2004, as of 2013[update] operated entirely by subsidiary Google Brazil). Sources such as The New York Times have declared it Google's biggest attempt to rival the social network Facebook, which has over 1 billion users.[not in citation given]
In November 2011, Google+ was integrated into the account creation process for other Google services, such as Google Mail. Google+ integrates social services such as Google Profiles, and initially introduced new services identified as Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. According to independent analysis of its growth in December 2011, the site was adding an estimated number of 625,000 new users a day, which may total 400 million members by the end of 2012. However, on February 28, 2012 Todd Wasserman from Mashable reported Google+ users are only spending 3.3 minutes monthly on Google+ which is a downward trend from 4.8 minutes in December and 5.1 minutes in November compared to Facebook users spending 7.5 hours using Facebook monthly.
On July 14, 2011, Google announced that Google+ had reached 10 million users just two weeks after the launch of a "limited" trial phase. After four weeks in operation, it had reached 25 million unique visitors. Based on ComScore, the biggest market was the United States followed by India. In October 2011, the service reached 40 million users, according to Larry Page; by the end of the year Google+ had 90 million users.
On May 14, 2013 a new version of Google+ was introduced.
User base 
Early adopters of Google+ in mid-2011 were mostly male (71.24%), and the dominant age bracket (35%) was between 25 and 34.
An August 2011 survey estimated that 13% of U.S. adults have joined Google+; it was projected to have 22% of U.S. adults in a year.
On January 26, 2012, Google opened Google+ to teenagers. The age limit had previously been 18, but Google Vice President for Product Management Bradley Horowitz announced on Google+ that users as young as 13 would be allowed.
According to Experian Hitwise, an Internet metrics firm, the number of U.S. visits to Google+ surpassed 49 million during the one-month period ending December 11, 2011, a 55% increase from the one-month period ending November 11, 2011.
||This article appears to be written like an advertisement. (May 2012)|
- In the "Stream", which occupies the middle of three columns on the page, users see updates from those in their Circles. There is an input box which allows users to enter a post. Along with the text entry field there are icons to upload and share photos and videos. The Stream can be filtered to show only posts from specific Circles.
- "Circles" enable users to organize people into groups for sharing across various Google products and services. Although other users may be able to view a list of people in a user's collection of Circles, they cannot view the names of those Circles. The privacy settings also allow users to hide the users in their Circles as well as who has them in their Circle. Organization is done through a drag-and-drop interface. This system replaces the typical friends list function used by sites such as Facebook. After adding a user to a Circle, it isn't until they are notified and have manually drag-and-dropped the other user to one of their circles that they are mutually in each other's Circles. Since September 26, 2011 users can share Circles; it's a one-time share, so if the creator of the Circle updates the members, people's shared copies won't be updated.
- Another function of Circles is to control the content of one's Stream. A user may click on a Circle on the left side of the page and the Stream portion of the page (the center) will contain only posts shared by users in that Circle. For the unsegmented Stream (includes content from all of a user's Circles), each Circle has a "slider" configuration item with four positions: nothing, some things, most things, and everything. The nothing position requires the user to select (click on) the Circle name explicitly to see content from users in that Circle. The everything setting as its name implies filters nothing out from people in that Circle. The remaining two positions control the quantity of posts which appear in one's main Stream, but the algorithm controlling what shows has not been disclosed.
- The default "Circles" are Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following, and can be renamed at any time.
- The "Following" Circle is described as "People you don't know personally, but whose posts you find interesting."
- "Hangouts" are places used to facilitate group video chat (with a maximum of 10 people participating in a single Hangout at any point in time). Only Google+ users can join the "Hangout" if they happen to possess the unique URL of the Hangout. On August 18, 2011 Google added a new addition to "Hangouts" - clicking on the Share button under any YouTube video reveals an icon that suggests watching the video with friends in a Google+ hangout. Google decided to limit Hangouts On Air features in few countries. Users cannot start a Hangout On Air from China, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Mobile Hangouts supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras which have been available since September 20, 2011. As of July 10, 2012 Google+ users on iOS are able to use Hangouts on iPhone and iPad.
- Hangouts On-Air gives users the ability to create instant webcasts over Google+. The broadcasts can also be recorded for later retrieval. This feature, announced on September 20, 2011, is limited to some videocast personalities, but the announcement indicates that it will be opened up. The first publicly broadcasted Hangout was with The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am on the night of September 21, 2011. The feature became available at a large scale on May 7, 2012. The feature is not available to users under age 18.
- Hangouts with Extras, originally in a preview state, allowed users to share documents, share a scratchpad and share their screens with other users, only to be replaced with built-in apps such as YouTube, Google Docs, and the new Capture.
- "Messenger" (formerly: Huddle) is a feature available to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating through instant messaging within Circles. Additionally, users can now share photos in Messenger between their Circles.
- "Instant Upload" is specific to mobile devices; it stores photos or videos in a private album for sharing later.
- "Sparks" is a front-end to Google Search, enabling users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others. "Featured interests" sparks are also available, based on topics others globally are finding interesting. Sparks is accessed as a pull-down from search results and helps to keep users informed of the latest updates on the topics of their interest. Sparks was removed sometime in November 2012.
- "Games" (social gaming) had 16 games when launched on August 11, 2011, which expanded to 44 a few months later, but as of April 2013 there are 38 since some games were removed by the creators and no new games have been added. Unlike Facebook games, Google+ games are located under a games tab, which gives games less visibility, and have notifications that are separate from the rest of a user's notifications. All games will be deleted from Google+ after June, 2013.
- Google+ has a "+1 button" to allow people to recommend sites and parts of sites, similar in use to Facebook's Like button.
- With the implementation of the +1 button, Google hopes to make search results more "germane". This will not directly affect search rankings.
- Similar to other Google applications, Google+ provides integration with other Google applications like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.
- A "Data Liberation" option provides the ability to download one's content from Google+.
- "Search in Google+" allows users to search for content within Google+. Users type what they're looking for into the Google+ search box, and Google will return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.
- Hashtags, which involve the prepending of a number sign to the beginning of a word or CamelCase, are hyperlinked to the most recent or highest-trending search results within Google+ containing the term. This, a feature which gained notoriety as a microblogging practice on Twitter, was implemented as a Google+ feature on October 12, 2011. Autocompletion came on January 17, 2012.
- "New Features for Google+ Mobile" Since the launch of Google+, Google has been adding and improving many features. On September 30, 2011, the company released a list of changes and additions to Google+ mobile which include:
- Improved SMS support so that users in the US and India can now post to Google+, receive notifications, and respond to group messages via SMS. They have also made it easier to +mention someone from a mobile device. Now, to +mention another user, one simply writes +[their name] inside a post or comment. In order to +1 comments more easily, users are now able to +1 them directly from their iOS devices. They also introduced this feature to the Android app in December 2011.
- Users are now able to edit their profile photos from a mobile device.
- Google has now made it simple to organize Google+ notifications from a mobile device. This feature allows users to select which notifications are important to them and which are not so that their mobile devices are not inundated with superfluous notifications.
- "What's hot" Stream, introduced on October 27, 2011, is a stream showing what Google+ users are excited about. Initially it appeared in the middle of a user's stream as a separate collapsable section. As of February 2012, it still appears in the middle of one's Stream, but it behaves more like a Circle in that it has a slider control; thus a user may turn it off completely (except for it being listed on the left side of the page) by sliding the slider for it to the nothing position. For some, the appearance of What's Hot in Streams was such an annoying (mis)feature that it was listed as one of Google+'s known issues.
- Ripples, introduced on October 27, 2011, is a visualisation tool, showing how resharing activity happens regarding a public post. One can replay the public share's activity, zoom in on certain events, identify top contributors, view statistics about average chain length, the most influential people in the chain, the language of the sharers, etc.
- Google+ Creative Kit is an online photo editor integrated to Google+ on October 27, 2011, which is essentially Picnik, integrated earlier to Picasa Web Albums.
- Google+ Pages was launched on November 7, 2011 to all users. It allows entities which are not individuals (such as organizations, companies, and publications) to set up profiles, or "pages", for the posting and syndication of posts. It is similar to Facebook's similarly named feature. At the same time, Google changed the site's logo and favicon, from black to a red one, matching the colour of the coral notification icon.
- Google+ Badges was quietly rolled out to select enterprises beginning 9 November 2011 and officially released to the public on 16 November. Badges are sidebar widgets which embed "Add to Circles" buttons and drop-down lists into off-site websites and blogs, similar to Facebook's Like Box widgets. This was officially treated by Google as a replacement for the older Google Friend Connect and its widgets, and GFC was announced by Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Hölzle on 23 November 2011, as scheduled to be retired by 12 March 2012 on all non-Blogger sites in favor of Google+ Page Badges.
- Google+ Local: On May 30, 2012, Google Places was replaced by Google+ Local, which now integrates directly with the Google+ service to allow users to post photos and reviews of locations directly to its page on the service. Additionally, Google+ Local and Maps also now feature detailed reviews and ratings from Zagat, who was acquired by Google in September 2011.
- Select public figures have verified names. Google determines whether a particular profile warrants verification. The purpose is to indicate to site visitors whether a particular profile belongs to who one would generally expect the name to be, and not someone who coincidentally has the same name as a public figure. Verified identity profiles have a checkmark logo after their name. Examples of profiles bearing the verified name badge include Linus Torvalds, William Shatner, Leo Laporte, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.
- Google+ Events: Released at Google I/O on June 27, 2012, Google+ Events allows users to add events, invite people, and then share photos and media in real-time from the event. The program is integrated with Google Calendar, and is posed as a direct competitor to similar features offered by Facebook.
- Google+ Communities: Released December 6, 2012, Google+ Communities allow users to create ongoing conversations about particular topics. Google+ Communities can also be created and managed under Google+ Page accounts.
On November 7, 2011, Google launched Google+ Pages, which will let businesses connect with fans in a manner similar to Facebook Pages. These businesses will receive corporate accounts to start sharing information about themselves and invite others to join in on the conversation.
At the initial launch, Google Apps accounts could not be used on Google+ due to lack of support for Google Profiles. On October 27, Google announced that Google+ now supports Google Apps users (if the user's domain administrator has enabled the service).
According to Business Insider and TastyPlacement, having "Google+ followers boosts the [Google search] ranking the most, while a "+1" still does way more for your search ranking than Facebook or Twitter."
Academic research 
Since Google+ was launched, it has attracted attention in academic researches. For instance, researchers from UC Berkeley crawled ~80 daily snapshots of Google+ social network, and studied its early evolution. They found Google+'s early evolution process can be roughly divided into three phases. Moreover, they found that user attributes (e.g., school, major, employer, etc.) have significant impact on the social structure and evolution of Google+.
Design impact 
The introduction of Google+ had an impact on the graphic redesign of Google's web search service. As it was explained later, Google+'s new look is actually part of a broader effort to refresh the visual design across Google, to achieve a consistent experience in all products across the Google spectrum.
In particular, there have been changes to Picasa Web Albums, whereby all Picasa users' images will automatically join their Google+ image storage. Google also plans to rebrand Picasa as Google Photos. Other changes:
- After tagging someone, they receive a notification and can see the photo and the related album.
- For new albums, anyone an album is shared with can see who else it is shared with.
- Albums someone shared can be tagged and re-shared by others.
- Photos up to 2048×2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes do not count towards the 1 GB storage quota for Google+ users (it is 800×800 pixels for non-Google+ users), creating "virtually unlimited" storage for mobile users.
Google Maps got the redesign on June 28, 2011. A redesigned Gmail and Calendar interface was first available at July 1, 2011. The Google News redesign went live on July 21, 2011 and Google Docs got a new look on August 5, 2011.
The new Google Reader interface was made available on October 31, 2011. Beside the sweeping visual changes, former social features ("share" and "like" buttons) have been replaced by a Google +1 button and the "share on Google+" box. It's said that now Reader is on its fourth social model, after using Google Talk contacts, allowing people to manage friends from the Reader interface and then integrating with Google Buzz.
Further design developments related to Google+ occurred in January 2012. On January 10, Google released "Search plus Your World", which inserts content shared on Google+ profiles and brand pages under Web Search results. The feature, which is opt-in, was received with controversy over the emphasis of Google+ profiles over other social networking services' user profiles (i.e., Facebook and Twitter). The feature builds upon the earlier "Social Search" feature which indexes content shared or published by authors; "Social Search", however, relied partly upon returns from non-Google services, such as Twitter and Flickr.
Google+ includes a feature to invite contacts from Yahoo! and Hotmail. At this time, however, there is no official way to import Facebook contacts into Google+; but there are some workarounds to achieve it. Facebook allows users to download their data, but not in a simple format easy to import; network effects make it difficult for a new social network such as Google+ to be successful, and an easy tool to migrate to a rival service would reduce the effect.
Gender issues 
Joining the service requires mandatory real-name and gender disclosure, which at launch was shared as public information. The gender selector has options for "Male", "Female", and "Other". The mandatory public gender exposure led to criticism for making older Google profiles public. In response, Google made changes to the service that allows users to control the privacy settings of their gender information. Google's justification for requiring gender information is that it uses that information to inform its usage of the terms "he", "she", and "they" in their delivery of information to users of the service. If a user decides to make the gender portion of the profile private, the language used to convey information becomes gender-neutral, using the singular they in place of gender-specific pronouns.
Censorship by governments 
Within a day of the website's launch, various news agencies reported that Google+ was blocked by the People's Republic of China. This is part of a wider policy of censorship in mainland China. The Iranian government has also blocked access to Google+ from 11 July 2011, as part of Internet censorship in Iran. Despite experiencing high growth in the U.S and European markets, Google+ still remains unavailable in mainland China. While it is not technically "blocked", it was made impossible to use by slowing it down to a crawl.
"Occupy Obama's G+" 
On 20 February 2012, Internet users from the People's Republic of China realized that state restrictions on Google+ had been relaxed for unknown reasons, allowing them to post on Google+ pages. In particular, Chinese users began to inundate the official election campaign pages of U.S. president Barack Obama on Google+ with often-off-topic comments in simplified Chinese characters.
The "occupation" of Obama's G+ page is largely considered a temporary mistake in Chinese censorship by observers outside of China, as Google reduced its physical presence in mainland China.
Google+ requires some users to identify themselves using their real names and accounts may be suspended when this requirement is not met. Google VP Bradley Horowitz has stated that a violation of the terms of service will only affect the service whose terms were violated and not any of the other services that Google provides. However, there were early reports of account holders being temporarily locked out of all of Google services.
On October 19, 2011, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Google executive Vic Gundotra revealed that Google+ will begin supporting pseudonyms and other types of identity "within a few months". As of January 23, 2012 Google+ allows the use of established pseudonyms.
See also 
- Google App Engine
- Google Sites
- Apache Wave (previously called Google Wave)
- List of social networking websites
- List of virtual communities with more than 100 million users
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