Google is incorporating its social network, Google+, in just about every part of its online empire — including, most recently, its Gmail system. Now, new users who want a Gmail account must also sign up for Google+.
It’s not necessarily a novel move for Google. The company has been integrating its products for years, from Picasa to YouTube to Blogger to perhaps its most popular productivity tool, Gmail.
However, its efforts to increase its Google+ user base via Gmail might prove grating to some users who are particularly sensitive about privacy, or to people just looking to slap up a new email account without a lot of bother.
The new process requires a user to create both a Gmail account and Google profile. From there, he or she automatically joins Google+. The new form also asks for additional information, such as gender and a mobile phone number, although the latter is not a required field. Previously, all one needed was an email address to get a Gmail account.
The change in procedure was first reported by the Google Operating System blog.
Google began rolling out this Accounts sign-up flow in November, spokesperson Chris Gaither told TechNewsWorld.
“We hadn’t changed our Google Accounts sign-up flow in more than seven years so it was due for a refresh,” he said.
The reason for the change, according to a statement Gaither provided, is that Google wants develop a consistent sign-up flow across its different products.
Not a Surprising Move
Google has already started to link search results to its Google+ network, so linking Gmail to the network is hardly a surprise, Scott Testa, marketing professor at Cabrini College, told TechNewsWorld.
“Google is going to pull out all stops for Google+ to succeed. It sees Facebook as a core threat to its search business.” Also, he said, Google’s recent earnings disappointed the market. The company will want to show shareholders and analysts that it will promote Google+ as aggressively as possible.
However, Testa doesn’t anticipate there will be a major backlash from actual users.
“It may be one more additional, slightly aggravating step someone has to take, but it isn’t that big of a deal. Gmail is a very popular product and offers excellent features considering that it is free,” Testa said. After all, people did not drop out in droves when Google began linking ads to Gmail a few years ago.
A Recipe for Success
“Google’s continued integration is definitely a leading factor of the growth in its social network,” Gabe Donnini, data solutions engineer at Chitika, told TechNewsWorld.
“If you combine this push of seamless integration with Google’s reputation and brand name recognition, it is easy to see how it is driving not only current users to Google+ but also creating dependencies with other products they might not have tried or used that often,” he said.
Whether users will be annoyed at having to create a profile will depend entirely on how they view the step, he added.
“Although it is not as though Google is requiring that Gmail users become active users of Google+ if they want to keep their accounts,” he said. “A user can sign up for the network and then forget it exists.”
That, however, is likely not what Google hopes to see happen. While Google+’s member count is quite high — 90 million, according to the last tally — there are growing questions as to how engaged, or active, these people are on the network.
This, of course, is key to Google+’s long-term success and a metric of vital importance to advertisers and companies that maintain brand pages on the site. Engagement is also a metric at which Facebook excels, especially as people spend more and more time on the site.
Whether linking the signup process for Gmail to Google+ will have an impact on engagement remains to be seen, Donnini said.
“Right now that is impossible to answer. A change in the engagement number is more dependent on changes to the service itself, not based on how many users Google+ can sign up,” he concluded.