Google opens up, then closes Google+ invites due to “insane demand”

If you were desperate to get a Google+ invite, there’s a very good chance you could have landed one tonight as Google gave existing Plus users the ability to invite anyone to test out the service.

But the revelry didn’t last too long — Google ended up turning off invites due to the sudden rush of new users. “We’ve shut down invite mechanism for the night. Insane demand,” Google’s head of social Vic Gundotra announced on the service. “We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way.”

Google+ launched on Tuesday to a small cadre of users, so tonight’s invite rollout is the first time the service has had a chance to spread to normal folks. That the demand was strong enough for Google to turn off invites is telling. For Google, a company that has previously failed with social projects like Buzz and Wave, it’s a sign that consumers haven’t yet written it off when it comes to social services.

People seem to be engaging with the service, judging from the number of folks on my Twitter feed who have been wrestling with Google+ all night. Some users praised the simplicity of Google’s Circles feature, which lets you easily sort friends, while others admitted to being confused by the onslaught of features in Google+. On Google+ itself, many users are posting updates about their baby steps with the service.

Even tech-savvy users will likely be confused when they first join Google+, so it’s no surprise that some mainstream users are having trouble. It took me about half an hour before I became fully comfortable with Circles and the plethora of options in Plus. I also tested out the limits of Plus’s HangOut feature with some friends by corralling 10 people into a video chat room. Surprisingly, video and audio remained smooth for the most part — though for some reason the YouTube sharing option didn’t work at all.

We’ll be exploring the most disruptive mobile trends at our fourth annual MobileBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the rise of 4G and how it delivers the promise of true mobile computing. We’re also accepting entries for our mobile startup competition at the show. MobileBeat is co-located with our GamesBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors can message us at sponsors@venturebeat.com.

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