Google was forced to suspend invites to the newly launched social networking project Google+ citing ‘insane demand’ by enthusiasts keen to check out the internet giant’s new Facebook competitor.
"We’ve shut down (the) invite mechanism for the night. Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest!" Google engineer boss Vic Gundotra posted on the service.
Described as a ‘limited trial’, Google+ is currently by invitation only. Initially the invites needed to come from Google staff members but the first wave of adopters were given the ability to invite others themselves.
The result was nothing short of a virtual stampede, no doubt assisted by the generally positive reception Google+ has received by users and the press alike. Tech Crunch’s MG Siegler called Google+ "pretty compelling so far."
Prior to announcing the pause in new user invites, Gundotra said he "couldn’t be more proud of the team today," and called the launch a ‘good start.’
Google’s previous social efforts have often been criticised for failing to deliver a compelling alternative to incumbents such as Facebook and Twitter. The firm initially tried an aggregation approach with the Gmail-integrated Buzz, enabling importing of users tweets and Google Reader recommendations.
Following a privacy cock-up that exposed contact names for all users by default, Buzz never gained mass attention. Needed fixes for Buzz rapidly dried up and Google staff members were rarely seen at a time marked by rising speculation about Google’s secret social networking project.
With the wraps off Google+, Google staffers, or ‘Googlers’ as they’re known, are very much in evidence on the new service, even offering direct support to users and taking bug reports for the web site and the Android Google+ application.
While some think the 700 million user Facebook may be too big to challenge, a timely example of the shifting fortunes of once-great social networking platforms arrived with news that Myspace was sold by News Corp for a mere $35 million, a fraction of the billions in market capitalisation of the major social networking brands today.
Former Facebook president Sean Parker gave his view on the triumph of Facebook over Myspace which he attributed to a failure to develop the web site further.
"They weren’t successful in treating and evolving the product enough, it was basically this junk heap of bad design that persisted for many years," said Parker.
Google’s new social effort has faced no small amount of criticism for appearing very similar to Facebook with some commentators publishing side by side images to prove the point. At the NExtWORK conference this week, Parker made another claim regarding MySpace that might also seem timely:
"There was a period of time where if they (Myspace) had just copied Facebook rapidly, they would have been Facebook. They were giant, the network effects, the scale effects were enormous."
Could Parker’s comments on Myspace be applied to Google’s new social effort today?
For now Google appear almost disarmingly up front about the limitations of Google+ and after a long period of invisible internal testing, or ‘dog fooding’ as they call it, the internet giant seems ravenous for user feedback to iron out the bugs.
"Hey guys…we have worked hard on the mobile apps but we still have a long long way to go. These are early versions…watch about bigger things," wrote Google+ mobile team boss Punit Soni.
"I am confident we will make your mobile social experience awesome. But we will need you help along the way…"