Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra said the Google+ social network's meteoric rise to more than 40 million users one month after launching to public beta exceeded the company's internal expectations, and vowed to bring pseudonyms to users.
Gundotra, who shepherded Google+ to fruition for the past one and a half years, appeared alongside Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco Oct. 19. Web 2.0 Summit co-host John Battelle asked him if he was happy with that speedy user adoption.
Gundotra said he is happy with its fast start -- users have also shared more than 3.4 billion photos in the last 100 days -- but acknowledged his team has a lot to do.
With Google+, the search provider is engaging rival Facebook in the war for users' attention. Incumbent network Facebook has more than 800 million users, some of whom use the service an average of 8 hours per month. That's a lot of eyeballs, time and ad clicks that Google is not getting.
Brin, noting that he is "not a very social person himself" and hasn't spent a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, said that while he initially believed the Circles sharing construct would prove too complicated to use, he found Google+ instantly compelling as a user. He makes public and private posts.
Gundotra added that Brin was intimately involved in the social network's design, including Google+ Hangouts, the network's free video chat service for up to 10 users. Brin said he was actually being sarcastic about his enthusiasm for Hangouts and admitted he was wrong about how the service should work.
Battelle then brought up the point that while he encounters colleagues on Google+, his family members are loathe to join. He noted that when venture capitalist Sean Parker spoke at the show Monday, he said it was hard to compete with network effects, getting users and their friends to switch to new platforms. This is Google+'s universal challenge in a nutshell.
Gundotra said Parker is right in terms of challenging the incumbent at its own game. He added that Google is trying to play a different game, leveraging Google's inherent user base, which is spread across Google Search, Gmail, YouTube and other services. Many of these users are connected by their Google accounts, or profiles, which are the connective tissue for Google+.