Thursday, 21 July 2011
f not for Google's (GOOG) first three flops at social networking, the search giant might never have come up with a viable challenge to Facebook andTwitter.
Google's fourth and most ambitious attempt at social networking has set Silicon Valley abuzz, with membership soaring past 10 million people in just three weeks. Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, the two executives in charge of Google+, said in an extended interview that they closely studied Google's previous failures with Orkut, Wave and Buzz to find a better approach. They also found a close-knit team of engineers and designers willing to take a risk.
Google+ ranks as one of the most important product launches in the company's history as it tries to catch up with the booming success of 750 million-member Facebook and other social sites, and the threat they represent to Google's advertising business. Google+ is the centerpiece of a companywide master plan to reboot Google for a modern Web that is increasingly about connecting with people as well as information.
Although the numbers for Google+ are impressive, Gundotra and Horowitz said it's far too soon to declare Google+ a winner. "We're Google. We can get anybodyto kick the tires of a product," said Gundotra, the Internet giant's top social networking executive. "It doesn't mean it's going to be successful."
Sitting in Building 2000 on the Googleplex, where they assembled the team in June 2010 to build Google+, the two executives talked about the leap of faith they made, and the team of engineers and designers that built the network.
"We've got some great characters here," Gundotra said. "Good people who are jelling together as a team. I think that's a part of the story that has never been told. People don't get how magical this team is. How we came together in the course of the past year to become friends.
"We're a heated team, a passionate team, lots of good fights, but it's a team that is pretty amazing."
Experts agree it's too early to call the social network a hit, even though its popularity helped push Google stock up 13 percent last week. Indeed, Facebook added 250 million members in the year Google+ was being designed. "Until it really starts to go mainstream, and I see my cousin in Florida decide to get on it, I just don't think we can say it's a success. We've got a ways to go," said Michael Fauscette, an analyst with IDC.