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Interest in Google+ falling among users

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Experian Hitwise released a report today that supports a slowdown in usage of the Google+ social network. According to the analytics firm, total Google+ visits fell by three percent during the week of July 23. The week prior (July 16) saw a traffic increase of 283 percent over the previous week at about 1.86 million visits. User engagement also dropped as Google+ members spent 10% less time on the site. Specifically, users spent about 5 minutes, 15 seconds on the site during the July 23 week compared to nearly 6 minutes during the July 16 week.

google_plusGoogle co-founder Larry Page claimed that users had shared over one billion items on Google+ on a July 14 conference call and comScore reported that the site broke 20 million users last week. It’s possible the waning interest in the social network can be explained by the lack of access to the public. Without friends to populate the network, users are less likely to spend time on Google+ and focus attention on social networks like Facebook.

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However, Google has been criticized for making a series of missteps regarding user profiles and brand pages over the past 10 days. Without notifying users, Google mass deleted profiles based on the criteria that pseudonyms cannot be used for names. Many users with identical names to prominent figures also were deleted as Google flagged the accounts as invalid. Businesses have also had difficulty setting up brand pages. While Google asked businesses and brands to hold off on creating an account until support rolled out, they deleted existing pages created by brands much to the dismay of the tech community.

Google’s VP of social Vic Gundotra took blame for the lack of notification regarding the deletions and specifically attributed the rapid growth of the social network. This has also caused Google to push up the timetable on creating brand pages and hopes to push out a finished product in the next three months. Responding to Google’s lack of product, Facebook pushed out a press release today regarding brand pages.

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Google to revise Google+ nickname policy
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Google is quickly working to revise its controversial policy that users of Google+ use their real names on the social network, according to a post by Google+ vice president Bradley Horowitz, who says that changes will arrive in "a matter of weeks."
"We’ve noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing," wrote Horowitz on Google+. "So we’re currently making a number of improvements to this process - specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them."
As Horowitz notes, these changes to Google+ policy include: warning users before their accounts are suspended, and giving them "a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension;" revising the sign-up process to "reduce the likelihood" that users violate the policy in the first place; adding an "Other names" section to Google+ profiles, so users can list the alternate names they go by; enabling "employment," "occupation" and "education" fields to appear when members with permission to view these details mouse-over users' names, which "also helps other users find and identify you."
Horowitz's statement comes after Google sparked an uproar this weekend for deleting the accounts of Google+ members without warning or explanation. Turns out, the reason was that these users had used names other than their real names (including nicknames, maiden names, pseudonyms, etc) as their usernames on Google+, a violation of the social network's policy.
Google vice president Vic Gundotra, who heads up the company social initiatives, explained on Google+ that the reason for the real-name requirement is to establish a positive tone for the network, ""like when a restaurant doesn't allow people who aren't wearing shirts to enter." He added that rule isn't about real names, per se, but is instead "about having common names and removing people who spell their names in weird ways, like using upside-down characters, or who are using obviously fake names, like 'god' or worse."
It's important to remember that Google+ is still in invite-only testing mode, so missteps and changes are to be expected — in fact, that's the entire point of a test mode. As Horowitz notes, the "dialog" between users and those at Google tasked with improving Google+ "will continue for a long time." So don't be surprised when similar gaffes pop up again and again.

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Google+ hits 20 million users in less than a month

Google+ may still have some way to go to equal Facebook’s 700 million users and Twitter’s 200 million, but 20 million unique visitors to the new social networking site in the space of just three weeks isn’t a bad way to start. Of the 20 million, five million were inside the US. The Google+ iPhone app released on Tuesday is sure to boost numbers further.
The new service allows members to create a variety of groups, called “circles,” enabling them to share information and content with only the people they choose. One circle could be made up of co-workers, while another might consist entirely of family members.
The statistics, reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, come from web analytics company comScore, who based its results on a “global measurement panel” of two million Internet users.
Speaking about the findings, vice president of industry analysis at comScore, Andrew Lipsman, commented: “I've never seen anything grow this quickly. The only other site that has accumulated as many new visitors in a short period of time is Twitter in 2009, but that happened over several months."
What makes the figures all the more remarkable is that the new social networking service is currently open only to those who receive invites. “Right now, we're testing with a small number of people,” the Google+ homepage says, “but it won't be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone.” We can safely assume that the line on the graph will go through the roof when the doors open to all.
The long-term plan for Google+ is to integrate it with other Google services such as YouTube and Gmail. When that happens, it'll become a service to be reckoned with and will likely begin to make big gains on competitors such as Facebook and Twitter.

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Google+ expected to pass 18 million users, growth rate slows
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By the estimation of Ancestry.com co-founder Paul Allen, the Google+ network is looking at a total of 18 million users of the invitation-only social network by the end of Tuesday. Yesterday, the service added 763,000 new users which constituted the slowest day of growth since Google opened up the floodgates on July 6. The growth rate has dropped 50 percent from the peak of public interest, but Allen notes that Google hasn't attempted to actively market the service yet. Instead, Google is focused on product improvements and testing according to Allen.
Google CEO Larry Page indicated that the service had over 10 million users on a July 14 investor call about earnings. Eric Schmidt has indicated that the vision for Google+ is eventually to be integrated into all other Google properties. For instance, Google could easily tie profiles into YouTube's current commenting system to create a feed of comments on videos that users watch. An even more simple integration would tie social feedback into search results, similar to the recently removed Twitter feed for real-time search. Once the Google+ service is tied into more Google properties, the growth rate should escalate quickly.
Google also released the Google+ app today for iOS devices. It had some opening day glitches with a version that wasn't supposed to be released, but Google quickly rolled out an update. While the Google+ app allows for selective sharing via Circles, features like chatting and video aren't supported. Google+ is also venturing out into verified accounts for celebrities, a move likely sparked from the recent William Shatner incident. The most followed member of Google+ is currently Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg with over 250,000 followers.
Paul Allen is interested in expanding beyond tracking the number of users on Google+. He wants to watch the average number of people in circles and the average number of posts per day as well as male to female ratio. He's also interested in the amount of people that will state that Facebook, Twitter or Google+ is their favorite social network.

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