Even after identifying himself as a Google+ fanboy and having literally written the book on the social network, Guy Kawasaki had no choice but to ask the tough questions in his SXSW keynote interview with Google’s Vic Gundotra.
The not-at-all-packed room was about as populated as Google+ is, but that’s probably because half the conference attendees are still stuck in a massive line to get their badges.
But those that showed up wanted a witch hunt, evidenced by the outbursts of applause after about ten of Kawasaki’s “friendly-rants.” That’s a word I made up to describe confrontation delivered by the Internet’s nicest person, who, as I mentioned, wrote a book about Google+. It just came out; Gundotra is a fan.
Still, he couldn’t have avoided the elephant in the room. Or, as Kawasaki phrased it when comparing Google+’s spam problem to a scene in Caddyshack, the turds in the pool.
He asked Gundotra about the Google+ ghost town report. And whether Google is doing evil (answer: punt). And can Google+ put commas in its follower counts already? And what’s up with all the spam? And especially, where is the Google+ API already? (Cue audience cheers and clapping.)
Gundotra’s excuse for almost every Google+ problem Kawasaki lobbed at him was, “We’re new.” The spam/turd problem is a work in progress. And Google hasn’t opened its API because it’s not ready yet. The company doesn’t want a developer revolt if Google decides to make changes. Even if Facebook developers are used to changes in the Facebook API, “we hold ourselves to a higher standard than Facebook,” Gundotra said. The API will happen soon enough.
The other answer popular with Gundotra was, “We’re misunderstood.” People aren’t using Google+ correctly. They don’t realize most sharing is done privately, for example, which is why many profiles look dead.
On the question of whether Google is still not doing evil, Gundotra dodged, saying, the good news is if you think we are going evil, you can, with one click, leave.
He denied that Google+ is a ghost town. The company recently stopped counting its users by signups but by the standard any web service uses, active users. Google+ has 100 million monthly active users and 50 million daily users, Gundotra said. But that number is a bit of a cheat, because it counts any interaction using the Google+ layer on YouTube, Gmail, or any other Google service. That may be the case, but if you buy that as a valid metric for the success of Google+, I have a candy bar to sell you.