Google is seeing some early demand for its new social networking project -- and is hinting that enterprises may be in store for some special features. On Wednesday night, Google let out more invitations to its Google+ in a move to boost the population of the fledgling social network.
"Things are going well with the systems right now so we feel comfortable enough to open up invites for a brief period. Our goal is to double the user base in the field trial from its initial group," David Debris, engineering director of Google+. "We continue to throttle invites, so please don't mass invite folks as it won't work. If you invite a handful of your most important friends and family you're much more likely to get these folks into our system."
A Facebook Copycat?
Is the demand that strong? And are Google+ users merely curious experimenters or do people really want a Facebook alternative? Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, sees a pent up demand in certain corners of the web for a new choice.
"Some of the people using Google+ are super enthusiastic," Sterling said. "Some of their enthusiasm is not exclusively a reaction to the Google+ product but a statement about the desire for a viable alternative."
But will users discover that Google+ is a Googleized copycat of Facebook? People will argue the degree to which Google+ is derivative of Facebook, Sterling said, and it does look somewhat like a mixture of Twitter and Facebook. However, he noted, Google+ does have some unique features.
"Obviously the Hangout feature is somewhat less unique today because of the Facebook-Skype announcement," Sterling said. "The group management feature on Google+ is very well designed. You have groups on Facebook but it's sort of clunky by comparison. Facebook will probably try to diminish Google's unique differentiators by making it easier for people to have private conversations, which is one of the main criticisms around Facebook."
The Enterprise Promise
On the enterprise front, Sterling sees some promise for Google+. Sterling expects some companies to adopt the tool for the group chat feature, which he said could enable remote groups within an organization to have a meeting in a simple and ad-hoc way.
"You can set up group chat for up to 10 people and you have the ability to segment all these groups, which will also be a potentially useful enterprise tool," Sterling said. "Certainly when you couple that with all the Google apps it's a nice package that companies can use. Large companies may have their issues with consumer products but I think there will be a lot of people that use this because with the video chat feature the value is immediate and obvious."