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Google+ new logo.png
Google+ interface.png
Screenshot of Google+ UI as of May 2013
Type of siteSocial networking service
Identity service
Available language(s)Multilingual
Users540 million (active October 2013)[1]
Written inJava and JavaScript[2]
LaunchedJune 28, 2011; 2 years ago (2011-06-28)
Current statusActive
Jump to: navigation, search
Google+ new logo.png
Google+ interface.png
Screenshot of Google+ UI as of May 2013
Type of siteSocial networking service
Identity service
Available language(s)Multilingual
Users540 million (active October 2013)[1]
Written inJava and JavaScript[2]
LaunchedJune 28, 2011; 2 years ago (2011-06-28)
Current statusActive

Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus /ˈɡɡəl plʌs/) is a social networking and identity service[3][4] that is owned and operated by Google Inc. Google has described Google+ as a "social layer" that enhances many of its online properties, and that it is not simply a social networking website, but also an authorship tool that associates web-content directly with its owner/author.[5] It is the second-largest social networking site in the world after Facebook. 540 million monthly active users are part of the Identity service side, by interacting socially with Google+'s enhanced properties, like Gmail, +1 button, and YouTube comments.[6] In October 2013, Google counted 540 million active users, of which 300 million users are active in "the stream".[1][7][8]

In a 2013 survey, 30% of surveyed smartphone users used the Google Plus app at least once a month.[9] 92% of US smartphone users had visited a Google web site or app in August 2013, according to another survey.[10]



Google launched the Google+ service as an invitation-only "field test" on June 28, 2011,[11][12] but soon suspended early invites due to an "insane demand" for new accounts.[13] On August 6, each Google+ member had 150 invitations to give out[14] until September 20, 2011, when Google+ opened to everyone 18 years of age or older without the need for an invitation.[15][16] 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.[17][18] 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.[19] 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 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,[20] which has over 1 billion users.[21][not in citation given]


Total Active Users
DateUsersDays Later
October 29, 2013540 Million2 years[6]
Sep 18, 2012400 Million1 year[22]
Dec 21, 2011150 Million6 months[23]
Jul 22, 201125 Million24 days[24]

Even in private beta, Google+ achieved rapid growth reaching 10 million users just two weeks after the launch.[25] In a month, it reached 25 Million.[26] In October 2011, the service reached 40 million users, according to Larry Page.[27] Based on ComScore, the biggest market was the United States followed by India.[28] After nearly three months of operation, it hit 50 million users, whereas other social networking sites such as MySpace took 1,046 days to reach that level; Twitter 1,096 days; Facebook 1,325 days; and LinkedIn 2,354 days .[29] by the end of the year Google+ had 90 million users.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32][33] Reported in February 28, 2012, while Facebook users average 7.5 hours on the site per month, Google+ users are spending roughly 3.3 minutes monthly on Google+.[34] As of May 2013 Google+ users are spending roughly 7 minutes on the social site. These numbers do not include traffic via apps.[35]

Mobile App[edit]

In just under a day in July 2011, the Google+ iPhone app became the most popular free application in the Apple App Store.[36]

User base[edit]

There are currently 540 million monthly active users across Google Properties and 300 Million active in the Google + Stream.[1][7][8] Google+ user base is roughly 60% male and 25% female as of November 2013. The remainder are "Other" or unknown.[37] Early adopters of Google+ in mid-2011 were mostly male (71.24%), and the dominant age bracket (35%) was between 25 and 34.[38] 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.[39]

On January 26, 2012, teenagers were able to create a Google+ account. 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.[40]

Identity Service[edit]

Starting in November 2011, Google+ profiles are used as the background account for many Google Services including YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Android, Google Play, Google Music, Google Voice, Google Wallet, Google Local and more.[41][42] As of January 2012, Google Search is customized with a feature called Search Plus Your World, which inserts content shared on Google+ profiles and brand pages under Web Search results, if one is logged into their Google+ account while using it.[43] The feature, which is opt-in, was received with controversy over the emphasis of Google+ profiles over other social networking services. 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 and Twitter had a contract that expired in July 2011 which is the reason Tweets are no longer shown.[44]


User Profile[edit]

A Google+ User profile is a public visible account of a user that is attached to many Google properties. It includes basic social networking elements like a profile photo, about section, background photo, previous work and school history, interests, places lived and an area to post status updates.[45] It also includes several identity service sections, such as a contributor and other profiles area that let one link their "properties across the web". These section optionally link to other social media accounts one has, any blogs one owns or have written or sites one is a contributor to. This area is used for Google Authorship.[46][47] Customized or Vanity URLs were made available to the public starting on October 29.2013 to any account that was 30+ days old, has a profile photo and at least 10 followers.[48]


Circles is a core feature of the Google+ Social Platform. It enable users to organize people into groups or lists for sharing [49] across various Google products and services. Organization of circles is done through a drag-and-drop interface. Once a circle is created, a Google+ user can share specific private content to only that circle, Work themed content can be shared with only work colleagues, family could sees more personal content and photos for example. The option to share Public or with Everyone is always available.[50] 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.


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.

Google staff preparing in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Obama discussing his State of the Union Address.
U.S. President Barack Obama interacts with YouTube and Google+ Hangout users in his first-ever completely virtual interview aired live on January 30, 2012.[51]

Hangouts and Hangouts On Air[edit]

Hangouts are free video conferencing calls with up to 10 people, done through the Google+ website or mobile app. You are also able to use many apps inside the hangout, allowing users to share documents, a scratchpad or their screens with other users. As well as many built-in apps such as YouTube, Google Docs, and the new Capture. 3rd Party apps built using the Hangout API are also available[52]

+1 Button[edit]

Google+ has a "+1 button" to allow people to recommend sites and parts of sites, similar in use to Facebook's Like button.[56] The amount of +1s a website has, has been correlated to higher Google search rankings.[57]

Google+ Pages[edit]

Google+ Pages was launched on November 7, 2011 to all users, which allows businesses to connect with fans.[58][59][60] 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.

Google+ Badges was quietly rolled out to select enterprises beginning November 9, 2011 and officially released to the public on November 16.[61] 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 November 23, 2011, as scheduled to be retired by March 12, 2012 on all non-Blogger sites in favor of Google+ Page Badges.[62]


Google+ Communities: Released December 6, 2012, Google+ Communities allow users to create ongoing conversations about particular topics.[63] Google+ Communities can also be created and managed under Google+ Page accounts.


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.[64]

What's Hot[edit]

"What's hot" Stream, introduced on October 27, 2011, is a stream showing what Google+ users have commented, shared and interacted with the most. It is similar to "Trending Topics" On Twitter.[65]

Google Local[edit]

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.[66]

Google Apps[edit]

At the initial launch, Google Apps accounts could not be used on Google+ due to lack of support for Google Profiles.[67][68][69] On October 27, Google announced that Google+ now supports Google Apps users (if the user's domain administrator has enabled the service).[70]


Additional Features[edit]

Legacy Features[edit]


According to Joseph Smarr, one of the Google+ team's technical leads, Google+ is a typical Google web application: it uses Java servlets for the server code and JavaScript for the browser-side of the UI, largely built with Google's Closure framework, including the JavaScript compiler and the template system. They use the HTML5 History API to maintain good-looking URLs in modern browsers despite the AJAX app. To achieve fast response times Google often renders the Closure templates on the server side before any JavaScript is loaded; then the JavaScript finds the right DOM nodes, hooks up event handlers, etc. The back ends are built mostly on top of BigTable and Colossus/GFS, and other common Google technologies such as MapReduce.[2]


SEO (Search Engine Optimization)[edit]

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."[84]

Design impact[edit]

The introduction of Google+ had an impact on the graphic redesign of Google's web search service.[85][86][87] 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.[88][89]

In particular, there have been changes to Picasa Web Albums, whereby all Picasa users' images will automatically join their Google+ image storage.[90] Google also plans to rebrand Picasa as Google Photos.[91] Other changes:

Google Maps got the redesign on June 28, 2011.[92] A redesigned Gmail and Calendar interface was first available at July 1, 2011.[93][94] The Google News redesign went live on July 21, 2011[95] and Google Docs got a new look on August 5, 2011.[96]

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.[97][98]

Importing contacts from other social networks[edit]

Google+ includes a feature to invite contacts from Yahoo! and Hotmail.[99] At this time, however, there is no official way to import Facebook contacts into Google+; but there are some workarounds to achieve it.[100] 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. Google+ allows users to download their data in an open format.[101]


Gender issues[edit]

Joining the service requires mandatory real-name and gender disclosure, which at launch was shared as public information.[102] The gender selector has options for "Male", "Female", and "Other". The mandatory public gender exposure led to criticism for making older Google profiles public.[103] In response, Google made changes to the service that allows users to control the privacy settings of their gender information.[104] 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.[105]

Censorship by governments[edit]

Within a day of the website's launch, various news agencies reported that Google+ was blocked by the People's Republic of China.[106] This is part of a wider policy of censorship in mainland China.[107] The Iranian government has also blocked access to Google+ from July 11, 2011,[108] as part of Internet censorship in Iran.[109] 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.[110]

"Occupy Obama's G+"[edit]

On February 20, 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.[111] 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.[112]

The "occupation" of Obama's G+ page is largely considered a temporary mistake in Chinese censorship by observers outside of China,[citation needed] as Google reduced its physical presence in mainland China.[citation needed]


Google+ previously required some[which?] users to identify themselves using their real names and accounts may be suspended when this requirement is not met.[113][114] Google VP Bradley Horowitz 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.[115] However, there were early reports of account holders being temporarily locked out of all of Google services.[116]

On October 19, 2011, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Google executive Vic Gundotra revealed that Google+ would begin supporting pseudonyms and other types of identity "within a few months".[117] As of January 23, 2012 Google+ allows the use of established pseudonyms.[118]

YouTube comment section[edit]

On November 6, 2013, YouTube began requiring that commenting on its videos be done via a Google+ account. YouTube explained that their new commenting system features improved tools for moderation, and comments will no longer be shown chronologically, but will be featured according to relevance and popularity, determined by the commenters' community engagement, reputation, and up-votes for a particular comment.[119] The decision to require a Google+ account to comment on a YouTube video has led to widespread criticism and debate;[120] supporters of the changes state that it is a positive step at cleaning up the "virtual cesspool" of homophobic, racist, sexist and offensive comments found on YouTube,[121] while opponents argue that the changes threaten online privacy and make the comment system overly complex. An online petition to revert the change garnered over 100,000 signatures in less than a week and another 100,000 a week later.[122] In his first YouTube comment in eight years, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim voiced his disapproval of the change.[123][124]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


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