More than once this week I encountered efforts to compare the booming social media, and especially half-hearted attempts to figure out how large Google+ is compared to other giants like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This morning an email from Google, announcing a field trial, confirmed this question is increasingly becoming irrelevant. And since this email did not include a polite request not to share this new development with the rest of the world, this is exactly what I’m going to do.
The most interesting effort to figure out the size of Google this week was by Comscore, where they put Google on the top-position ahead of any other internet company (this is for US users only, China would be a different story), by combining all the different Google platforms, Google+, Gmail, Drive, Blogger into one whopping figure of 234 million users in the United States. Of course, that figure does not help you when you want to compare Google+ with other social media, but the announced field trial shows how irrelevant the question already is.
The field trial is only for a limited number of users, and here are some screen shots of my Gmail this morning. (And I have checked I’m not sharing anything you should not know.) I started to look for “Tricia Wang” in the search box of my Gmail and already after three, four letters, I had the information I needed in a drop-down menu. Not only a link to her email address, but also links to recent emails and other online activities.
The drop-down box is actually divided in different sections. The first offers links to know email addresses of this person. That works fine, although when I searched for my name, it started with a defunct email address. Second section shows some recent email conversations, the third showed files in Drive connected to that person. Also the Google Calender should show up here, but for me that feature is rather underused. At the bottom a link to the reason for all this action: the search function.
When I confirmed the search was correct, on top of my Gmail a new box appeared (the second picture), including 1.a link to the Google+ profile, 2.making it possible to manage the circles Tricia is in, 3. send an email (still a useful option, offers more email address if available), 4. start a chat or 5. a Google+ hangout, 6. phone numbers. And there might be some stuff I have not yet seen.
It is just another step in consolidating different Google services. The strongest asset of Google+ was already in enhanced functionality, compared to its competition. What is still its largest disadvantage is the – compared to Twitter and Facebook – relative low take-up among internet users. I have noted in my efforts to set up my China Weekly Hangout that the technology is cool, and improving, but the number of drop-out of people who give up on Google+ is still pretty high. (Hey, I dropped out twice from Twitter, before I got the hang of it.)
When this field trial shows what direction Google is taking, I’m sure that at Mountain View, California, they are not so worried about the slow take-up. That will change, one way, or the other.
Update: 1.Oh, and then I missed the not-attached attachments. An obvious extention, and solving a real problem.
2. Juha Tapio checked the new feature too, and he notes that Gmail users have to switch to the “new compose” setting before they can use this feature.