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Google is requiring users of its services to create a Google+ account in its latest attempt to cope up with Facebook, the world’s leading social network, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The search giant is now asking users of Gmail, YouTube and other Google services to make a Google+ page that is viewable to the public.
Google+, which started as an experimental social networking project, is now Facebook’s closest competitor and an important new program for Google to generate more revenue from online advertising.
Google is urging users of the social network to set up groups of friends and interact with these “Circles” within the website similar to its rival.
Sources told the WSJ that Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page is seeking imperative steps to draw online users closer to Google+ and pull them away from Facebook.
Google aims to contend with Facebook through an improved integration between Google+ and other services offered by the Mountain View-based company.
Take note that most of Google’s and Facebook’s revenues come from selling online advertisements, but the latter has the capacity to link a user’s online activity to his or her real name and find the people on that person’s friends list.
Industry experts said, in an interview with the WSJ, that Google told them about better integration of Google+ with in-house products and services, which will allow the company to gain the right statistics for targeted traffic with applicable online advertisements.
The move has taken aback several users of Google services who fear how far the extent of the integration will involve.
A Navy P.O. said he joined Google+ because all his smartphone photos are automatically uploaded to a dedicated, private Google+ folder, but he later found out that his profile page (with his real name) was connected to a software review he recently wrote on the Google Play Store.
He said that Google will share posts even without the account owner’s consent just to go head-to-head with Facebook’s services.
A spokesperson for Google answered that the company started to require the use of Google+ profiles for written reviews to raise the bar on the quality of the criticisms, which, it said, was lower when users left anonymous reviews.
In addition, the requirement to create a Google+ profile page also allows people to read reviews written by friends.
Google VP Bradley Horowitz said, “Google+ is Google,” and the social network’s entry points are many, with more integrations added daily.
Sources familiar with the matter said Google employees have mixed reactions on the change: a few see it as a dire effort to challenge Facebook, while some view it as the company’s ultimate route to be relevant in social media.
The people said, almost a year ago, Google CEO Page opened the thought of demanding users of the company’s services to login to their Google+ accounts to see business reviews.
The thought of frustrating Google Search users made Google executives to convince Page not to follow up on his strategy, added the sources.
Google has recently pushed further on other ways to integrate its services.
In autumn, the firm started to require users who want their reviews of restaurants or other commercial enterprises posted to use their Google+ profiles, and it applied similar rules for reviews of mobile apps and physical merchandise from Google.
Inbound Google+ links also show up in Google Search engine result pages (SERPs) that involve people and brands with a Google+ account.
Vic Gundotra, SVP of Engineering at Google and Google+ head, said resistance to in-house project integrations were stronger two years ago, when people had yet to grasp a good understanding of the social network.
Last month, the online search company said the number of people who used at least one Google+ feature, including the “+1″ button (similar to the Facebook”Like” button), increased from 150 million in late June to 235 million.
The boost proves how serious Google is to challenge Facebook by taking advantage of its top websites to help Google+ and turn it into a gateway for online users and businesses to communicate.
Google+ is asking Google users to login to their accounts and thus the firm will now have the ability to combine heaps of data from a user’s search pattern and history of visited websites with Google+ activities.
Google’s online advertising business accounts for an estimated 95 percent of its over $40 billion annual revenue, excluding that of Motorola Mobility, so the possibility of future success from the changes on Google+ are promising.
In most cases, users add real names and other personal information to their profile pages on Google+.
While Google+ profile pages are set as public and appear in Google Search by default, it is possible to change the settings so that the user has the option to hide the page from SERPs and disable or delete his or her Google+ account.
Google says that usernames are not passed on to advertising companies, but it extracts data from the user’s history of visited websites and specific interests to help advertisers use targeted and relevant ads.
Google+ chief Gundotra assures Google will not share user information with advertisers and that the company prioritizes the trust of its users.
Google is pushing users of its services to use Google+ in sharing photos and ideas with friends or other Google+ users who have similar interests.
Google+’s integration with other Google products and services help users reap more information about ads, apps, businesses, products, and websites because Google+ users can receive notifications if their Google+ friends or other contacts outside of the social network recommend some items.
To put this into perspective, Dylan Casey, an ex-Google+ product manager who is now affiliated with smartphone-based social network Path, gave an example where a user searches for a camp stove on Google Search, discovers that a friend recently bought one, and asks him or her about the item.
After Google+ launched one and a half years ago, Google struggled to increase the average on-site staying time of users, with analytics firm comScore estimating a year ago that Google+ users spent three minutes on average per month compared to over 400 minutes on Facebook.
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