Google co-founder Sergey Brin said today that the Google+ social network is working surprisingly well and is part of a “bouquet” of services to come.
Brin (pictured in the middle) made a surprise appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit alongside senior vice president Vic Gundotra (pictured left). Brin said that he was very happy with the launch of Google+, which has hit 40 million users just weeks after its release. Since it has only penetrated roughly 4 percent of Google’s entire audience, there’s still a lot of room to grow.
Gundotra said that Brin was actively involved in the design of Google+, weighing in on Google Hangouts, which lets users hold free video conferences with up to 10 people in real-time. Brin also liked the idea of circles, which let you share things with people who are in a certain group, rather than forcing you to share with either everybody or nobody, Brin said.
“I am very enthusiastic as a user,” Brin said. “I’ve connected with old friends.”
Brin acknowledged that other Google projects haven’t worked well, and the company is still known for search.
“I completely agree that some of our products and services seemed scattered,” Brin said. “We’re cleaning up the look. We are cleaning up the sharing model across all of them. It has been a change of approach. Before it was let a thousand flowers bloom. At some point, you want to put together a coherent bouquet. You will see more and more of that.
John Battelle (pictured right), co-host of the summit, said that Facebook, with its 800 million users, has huge advantages of network effects. In plain English, it’s hard for newcomers to steal users away from where all of their friends are.
Gundotra responded, “The incumbent has a huge advantage. But we’re going to play a different game.” He said that many users are already using Google products and now Google+ will give them a reason to use these products together.
Gundotra said the service is growing at a fast clip and that over time it would catch up. For instance, he said that in the last week alone, 3.4 billion photos were shared on Google+.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out. To be human is to curate.”
Gundotra acknowledged it was embarrassing to see a Google engineer mistakenly share an internal memo with the outside world, in criticizing Google+.
“I would be lying if I didn’t tell you it was not a bad day,” he said. “We never like to see that. It gave the outside world of what we do internally. Larry and Sergey have fostered a culture of open discussion and open dissent at Google. That’s a different culture than other places I’ve worked.”
The engineer criticized Google for not getting external developers involved with Google+. Gundotra said that his company would be careful about releasing an applications programming interface for Google+.
“I’d rather do it slow, do it carefully,” he said.
Gundotra said that the circles of Google+ are particularly family friendly, and that families are using features such as Google Messenger. Gundotra said Google+ services for brands will be coming in a matter of days.
“By Christmas, you will see the Google+ strategy come together,” Gundotra said.
Brin said there are 550,000 Android handsets being activated per day. There are about 200 million devices in the market.
“It has been a phenomenal success,” he said, noting the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone is stellar.
Brin said that he spends one day a week with the top executives and then puts the remaining four days into infrastructure and advanced research projects. Those projects include things like Google’s self-driving car.
As for games, Gundotra said the company prioritized getting games on the service early. But he said they were careful about viral channels because game messages can really annoy some people.
Photo credit: Chikodi Chima/VentureBeat