Come On Google, Show Us Some Real Google+ User Numbers Already


Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that things aren't looking so great for Google+. According to data from comScore, Google+'s users spend just about 3 minutes per month on the site. On Facebook, that number is closer to six or seven hours per month. Google itself, however, has never provided anybody with any useful data about the service and – at worst – is just using deliberately misleading information to provide the press with big numbers that look good but are absolutely meaningless.

100 Million "Active" Users?

In January, for example the company's CEO Larry Page said that the site had 90 million users at that time and that "+users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly." That, however, was a pretty misleading statement. While it may sound that Page was saying that 60% of Google+ users come back to Google+ every day, his argument was simply that 60% of those users who signed up for Google+ also use any other Google+ service on a daily basis. Those numbers said absolutely nothing about the engagement Google+ is seeing from its users.

Today, Google's VP for engineering Vic Gundotra – in what is clearly a reaction to the WSJ piece – talked to the New York Times' Nick Bilton and once again used the same kind of tactic. "On a daily basis, 50 million people who have created a Google Plus account actively use the company’s Google Plus-enhanced products, Mr. Gundotra said. Over a 30-day period, he said, that number is 100 million active users." Google+, of course, is now part of virtually every other Google product, including search, which most of the company's users probably use on a daily basis without ever trying to actively engage with the company's social network.

Nice, Meaningless Numbers

Google is obviously trying to paint a nice picture here by using large numbers that, at the end of the day, say nothing about Google+ and how engaged its users are. Maybe things are great at Google+ and it has a huge, highly active community (though most of us aren't seeing it in our own accounts). The problem with this is that unless Google provides us with any concrete data, it just looks as if the company has something to hide.

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Android at Home: Did Google Already Demo Its Rumored Home Entertainment Device at I/O Last Year?


The Wall Street Journal today reports that Google is working on designing and marketing a home-entertainment device that would "stream music wirelessly through the home." The interesting part here is that Google might actually market this device. Chances are, after all, that the hardware will look pretty similar to what Google showed off at its I/O developer conference last year.

In the context of explaining its [email protected] initiative (which, until now, hasn't really shown much promise), Google also showed a few Android-based music devices that featured wireless streaming and access to Google Music. Last year, Google called them [email protected] hubs and the code name at the time was Project Tungsten. In the demo, Google used a tablet with prototype software that allowed its users to select different output devices – including the Android hub.

At the time, Google stressed that these were just "conceptual examples" and not actual products. It's quite possible that this is changing now and that Google is turning these prototypes into actual products.

Google project tungesten

Google I O 2011 Keynote Day One  YouTube

Here is also a video to the presentation (the discussion of the music devices starts about 46:45 minutes into the video):

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Google Confirms FTC Antitrust Inquiry, But Says Reasons are “Unclear”


There were some rumors earlier this week that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was about to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s “core search advertising business.” Today, Google confirmed that it has indeed received formal notification from the FTC that “it has begun a review of [its] business.” In its official statement, Google notes that it’s “unclear” what exactly the FTC’s concerns are, but if an earlier Wall Street Journal report is correct, the FTC is especially interested in investigating if Google has abused its dominant position in the search advertising space. (more…)

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WSJ Launches Its Own Wikileaks-Inspired Whistleblower Service


The Wall Street Journal today launched the WSJ SafeHouse, a new site that allows potential whistleblowers to safely submit documents to the Journal. It’s hard not to assume that this effort was not inspired by WikiLeaks and the success other papers have had with reporting about these leaked documents. The Journal, it’s worth noting, was never on the list of WikiLeaks’ partner organizations and hence never received these documents before they were published. Indeed, in an editorial in 2010, the WSJ called WikiLeaks “bastards” who endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. As the WJS acknowledges, though, documents and databases are “key to modern journalism.” Submitted documents will be vetted by a WSJ editor.

Ensuring Anonymity

To ensure the anonymity of potential whistleblowers (though users can also submit their names, email addresses and phone numbers if they choose to do so), the WSJ encourages submitter to encrypt their documents with the Journal’s public PGP encryption key and to obscure their IP address with the help of the Tor project’s software. The SafeHouse site itself also uses https:// to ensure the data users send over the open Internet can’t be read by third-parties who intercept it.

There is obviously nothing new about the fact that news organizations accept documents from whistleblowers. By making it easier and safer to do so, though, organizations like the WSJ will likely increase the number of interesting documents they receive and – hopefully – be able to follow up on.

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