Google+ was a social networking website launched in 2011 as a competitor to Facebook and Twitter. The pilot phase of the project gained users on an invitation-only basis in June 2011 but the site opened to all that September. The site included various new features and incorporated two existing Google services, Google Profiles and Google Buzz, the latter being the search engine giant's previous attempt at developing a social networking site.
Google+ was similar to Facebook in that people could invite and add people to follow their social and everyday activities, though unlike Facebook, individuals did not need to add the inviter to their own list of approved 'friends' in return to see updates. Groups of people were permitted to view such updates according to the 'Circles' that the inviter had placed them in. All linked accounts had to be added to at least one Circle; in contrast, Facebook's 'friend' lists are optional. Google+ also overlapped with Twitter in that a user could link to public figures or people they did not know by adding them to their Circles, in the same way that Twitter users can 'follow' anyone whose page is publicly accessible. Google+, however, allowed much lengthier posts than the quick 'tweets' found on Twitter. In October 2011, Google+ introduced support for hashtags, which worked similarly to the feature originally introduced on Twitter.
However, questions as to what the large numbers actually meant were raised. An article in the online Wall Street Journal suggested that despite the figures, Google was unsuccessful at engaging its users, with its users averaging only three minutes on the site. Active Google users immediately countered with their own informal polls, which showed the average rate to be several hours per day, though by their own admission these polls were for the most part only accessed by active users, i.e. those in the poll-takers 'circles', so figures would be higher.
Statistics released to the media in April 2012 showed a rise over the period February-March of that year, with Google+ named as the sixth most popular social networking website (with first and second positions taken by Facebook and Twitter)  Around the same time, the site was significantly redesigned, with users presented with a larger amount of white space towards the right of each window.
Criticisms of Google Plus
Real name policy
Suggested users list and favouritism
- Pronounced 'Google Plus' and sometimes written as such, as in the site URL.
- Wall Street Journal: 'The Mounting Minuses at Google+'. February 28, 2012.
- Pcmag.com: 'Google+ visits Up 27% between Feb. and March: what does that mean?'. April 8, 2012.
- Google Blog: 'Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google'. April 11, 2012.