Google+ experiences some growing pains

Since its debut in late June, Google+ has captured much of the tech world’s online conversation.

The chatter is generally positive, with tech bloggers cheering Google’s new social network as a cleaner and more robust alternative to Facebook. But there have been some bumps on the road.

Over the weekend, Google admitted to inadvertently “spamming” some Google+ users with notification e-mails — the messages the company sends out if another user adds you to their “circles” of contacts on the site or comments on one of your posts.

Instead of sending those notes out only once, as intended, Google+ sent them “over and over again,” Most Google+ users seemed quick to forgive the slip-up and chalk it up to growing pains.

Google+ offered this explanation “For about 80 minutes we ran out of disk space on the service that keeps track of notifications. Hence our system continued to try sending notifications. Over and over again. Yikes, we didn’t expect to hit these high thresholds so quickly, but we should have.”

It’s unclear exactly how many people have joined Google+, and the service undoubtedly has far, far fewer users than Facebook, which leads the field with 750 million users. The fact that the Google+ community is still relatively small is no surprise for two reasons: First, the site is so new; and second, it still isn’t public, meaning you have to get a personal invitation in order to sign up — at least for now.

Current Google+ users have been pointing out features of other social networks that either don’t exist on Google+ or aren’t easy to use.

One is the idea of “institution pages,” which, on Facebook and Twitter, let companies put out info about new products, news stories and such. There’s no such feature to date on Google’s new social network, although Google has said that it’s working on adding this.

Another is celebrity verification. On Twitter, for example, if you go to Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber’s profile page, there’s a little “verified account” badge next to the name, which is a signal to visitors that it’s actually the account of a celebrity. On Google+, it’s unclear if accounts are real or fake.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Google+ page stirred up news on the blogosphere because it’s interesting that the leader of a competing social network would join this new service, and because it was unclear if his page was real. Blogger Robert Scoble cleared this up in a text message conversation with Zuckerberg, who said that this was indeed his Google+ account.

Similar authenticity issues have popped up with the Google+ pages of Kanye West, Nancy Pelosi and Michael Dell, among others.

Facebook is not resting on its laurels, announcing last Wednesday it will add Skype video chat to its pages, aiming to spice up the appeal of the world’s No. 1 Internet social networking service while fending off increased competition from Google.
By incorporating free video chat directly into its service, Facebook will give its members another reason to use the site more often and for longer periods of time. Facebook’s Skype service, initially limited to one-to-one video chat, will be free.

The agreement, announced by Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, deepens the company’s cooperation with Microsoft which is in the process of buying Skype to build up its web presence.

Zuckerberg said Facebook has surpassed a record 750 million users. The new service, rolling out from Wednesday July 6th, could also be a huge boost for Skype, which currently has about 145 million regular users.

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