To date Google+ has 300 million ‘active’ users. However, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google’s definition of ‘active’ users covers members that use any one of its services – for example, YouTube, Gmail and Android – rather than just Google+.
Considering the significant importance the Google search engine places on content, and how current features of Google+ such as the Authorship tool create credibility for content authors and creators, Google+ is really more of a social layer that spans all of the services Google provides than a dedicated social network.
While there appears to be a popular consensus that Google+ has failed as a social network, as a social layer that spans the entire Google ecosystem Google+ is incredibly successful.
With the Google+ layer already collecting data that spans app usage (on the web and on Android and iOS devices), internet searches and click-throughs, as well data about the discussions you engage with and your personal information, Google is able to build a complete picture of your personal web habits, where you go and at what times.
With 89% of web searches in the UK being a Google search, and YouTube attracting 24% of all website visits Google+ accounts are providing Google with a raft of personal data the like of which has never been seen before.
In the short term, this has enabled the search giant to provide personalised search results based upon what Google already knows about you – and provide suggestions as to what you might be searching for.
However, the future of Google+ is as unclear as it has ever been. As a standalone social network, it is currently lagging far behind the industry leader, with less than a quarter of the 1.28 billion active users that Facebook has.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that, in the near future, Google+ could be used to provide personalised news feeds full of content from sources all over the web that users will have a high probability of engaging with. Whether users will appreciate this level of Orwellian oversight in return for the convenience of personalised content and ad feeds is, of course, still to be seen.