During its Q1 earnings call today, Google’s CEO Larry Page called Google+ the company’s “social spine.” With about 120 Google+ integrations across Google’s portfolio, Page said, Google+ is now what connects all of Google’s products. He also stressed that there are two aspects to Google+: the social spine (which, as Google had already announced earlier this week, currently has about 170 million users) and the social destination site. Google, for a while now, has refused to release any numbers about the actual number of people who regularly visit the Google+ homepage and how engaged they are. While quite a few pundits hoped that this would change with this call, Page did not announce any new numbers today.
Page did note, however, that Google+ “is growing quickly” and that the company is seeing “impressive engagement” and “fast growth.” He also stressed that this is a new community and that he himself is seeing a lot of high-quality feedback.
Page’s comments about Google+ are quite typical for how Google now prefers to talk about its social network. Instead of talking about how many users actually visit the “social destination” side of Google+, Google is more interested in talking about how many Google+ users also use other Google products like search, Gmail or Google Docs. In the company’s view – or at least in its public statements about Google+ – these numbers are more important, as Google argues that Google+ is simply part of the whole Google ecosystem and not just a stand-alone product. Given the public perception that Google+ is a bit of a “ghost town,” though, the calls for the company to disclose at least some numbers for engagement on the Google+ destination site have increased over the last few weeks.
Update: During the Q&A session after the call, Page was asked why the company is investing so much into Google+. In Page’s view, the most amazing thing that Google can now do that it couldn’t do before having Google+ is understanding your social connections when you search and hence show you the right results when you search for a common name like “Ben Smith.” Being able to share things, Page also noted, should be a “basic utility” in all of Google’s products.