Last week, I noted that educated guesses had the number of Google+ users at around 10 million. The same person thinks it’s up to around 18 million now. Still a paltry sum compared to Facebook, but the increase is notable. All of my siblings are in, and the number of friends and acquaintances is up to around 40. Many of them are starting to post on G+, and I even just finished a brief hangout with two others. It’s all about baby steps, but it’s a lot different than even two weeks ago, when I spent most of my time reading posts by Scoble.
I’ve opened a second account for the Gmail account I use for school stuff, and so far, I’ve been able to make it work (although I use a different browser to help separate my two selves). I’m not sure yet how I’ll use it in the classroom; it will most certainly be an option for office hours and the like, but I don’t think at this early stage in the life of G+ that I can require my students use it. Meanwhile, Liz Dwyer has a few words on the topic: “Why Google+ Is an Education Game Changer.”
Edd Dumbill has written the most interesting Plus-related piece of the week, “Google+ Is the Social Backbone.” He doesn’t waste time getting to the point:
The launch of Google+ is the beginning of a fundamental change on the web. A change that will tear down silos, empower users and create opportunities to take software and collaboration to new levels.
Social features will become pervasive, and fundamental to our interaction with networked services. Collaboration from within applications will be as natural to us as searching for answers on the web is today.
He asks the question, “Why not Facebook?”, and follows it with “Why Google+?”.
Facebook's chief flaw is that is a closed platform. Facebook does not want to be the web. It would like to draw web citizens into itself, so it plays on the web, but in terms that leave no room for doubt where the power lies. … If you want to use Facebook's social layer, you must be part of and subject to the Facebook platform. … This is not to set up a Facebook vs Google+ discussion, but to highlight that Facebook doesn't meet the needs of a global social backbone. …
Google+ is … the first system to combine a flexible enough social model with a widespread user base, and a company for whom exclusive ownership of the social graph isn't essential to their business.
And he concludes:
Obstacles notwithstanding, Google+ represents the promise of a next generation of social software. Incorporating learnings from previous failures, a smattering of innovation, and a close attention to user need, it is already a success.
It requires only one further step of openness to take the Google+ product into the beginnings of a social backbone. By taking that step, Google will contribute as much to humanity as it has with search.
The entire piece is worth reading. As you can see from the excerpts above, Google+ has already inspired some utopian thinking. It’s not clear why this is happening. Charlie Bertsch noted the enthusiasm of early users and admitted he was surprised. I replied:
Some of us are Google fanboys, so we can't be trusted. More objectively, G+ has made a good start, it is in many ways better than the alternatives, and geeks don't care if they are the only ones using it right now ... in fact, some of them prefer it that way (there has already been joking, but negative, talk about the release of the iPhone app, for the simple reason that it will bring lots and lots of users).
I also don't think you can discount the frustration many people feel with Facebook.
Ultimately, though, it might be enough for the first batch of users that Google+ is not Wave or Buzz.
There’s much more to it than that, but I sure can’t put my finger on it. I know this: I never felt the need or desire to devote blog posts to things I’ve said and read on Twitter or Facebook, with a few notable exceptions. But three weeks in, and I’m already filling half of this post with quotes from or about Google+.