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Google+ Says It’s Thriving But Refuses To Give User Figures
It's been nearly a year since the network updated its user numbers, but David Besbris, Google's new head of social, says the company's commitment to the network is strong.
Google+ is alive and thriving, says Google’s head of social David Besbris, serving a devoted base of users who love the emphasis on privacy, the top-notch photo tools and the state-of-the-art multi-party video conferencing. Besbris, in an interview published today by Re/code, said hundreds of millions of people are using the Google+ mobile app.
But he declined to disclose the number of active Google+ users, meaning that it’s been nearly a year since Google released updated figures for the prime growth-measuring metric in the digital marketplace. Google used to update the figure regularly — once claiming it was the “fastest-growing network thingy ever” — but after announcing 540 million monthly active users, 300 million in the Google+ stream during a special Google+ event last October, the company has gone quiet.
That informational vacuum has been filled by chatter about the decline and possible fall of Google+ as a viable Google product, speculation that gained momentum in April when Google+ founding father Vic Gundotra abruptly left the company.
Citing anonymous sources, several publications reported that Google was reassessing its social strategy, reassigning Google+ team members to Android efforts, moving remaining people outside the main cluster of Google buildings and planning to decouple popular G+ features like photos and video Hangouts while pulling back on the Google+ brand.
Google+ got no significant mention at its annual Google I/O developers conference in June. Over the summer, Google killed the Authorship display in search results. More recently, Google pulled back on one of its heavier-handed Google+ account creation processes, ending a requirement of creating a social account when setting up a Gmail or other Google account.
Hit after hit in a seeming litany of doom for Google+.
But Besbris, who took over for Gundotra, insisted in the Re/code interview that Google’s commitment to the network remains strong, that it is in social for the “long haul”:
“We’re actually very happy with the progress of Google+, [CEO Larry Page] said this at the time that Vic transitioned that he’s going to continue working on building this stuff, that he’s very happy with it. The company is behind it. I have no idea where these rumors come from to be honest with you.”
Many of Besbris’ answers in the interview will sound familiar. They are the usual talking points of the strengths of the network — the strong photo tools, the popular video Hangouts and the ability for users to connect about topics of common interest in communities. Besbris also said that he’s pleased with the Android and iOS apps but that they are working to improve the mobile experience and that Google is unlikely to bring advertising into the currently ad-free network.
Asked about Google’s end-game for Google+, Besbris said:
“I don’t think of it as an end-game, I think we’re in social — like we’re in everything at Google — for the long haul. We said this at the beginning of the company, we make long-term bets, we make long-term decisions. Social is a whole aspect of computing much like any other area you would imagine at Google. Behind every one of these screens is a user, it’s an actual person. People are social creatures, they want to share things, they want to learn from each other, they want to ask questions. That’s really important for us as a company how we can deliver on that.”
Read the full interview at Re/code.
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