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Google is a latecomer to social networking but its new site, Google+, is growing much more rapidly than Facebook, Myspace and Twitter did in their early days, technology experts said Tuesday.
While Google+ may be the fastest-growing social network ever, it remains to be seen, however, whether it can pose a serious threat to the social networking titan Facebook, which has more than 750 million members.
Andrew Lipsman, vice-president for industry analysis at tracking firm comScore, said Google+, which was launched by the Internet search and advertising giant on June 28, had 25 million unique visitors as of July 24.
During a panel discussion on Google+ hosted by Wedbush Securities, Lipsman said it took other social networks much longer to reach 25 million users: 22 months for Myspace, 33 months for Twitter and 37 months for Facebook.
“Obviously, this is a very strong growth trajectory,” Lipsman said.
He cautioned, however, that Google “has a really large user base it can build off of” with its one billion users worldwide.
And it still has a “really long way to go to be competitive with Facebook,” Lipsman said.
“Google+ is the fastest by a long shot but it’s important to realize that fastest may not always be best,” he said. “Sometimes, that slow build can lead to a strong network effect that pays long-term dividends.”
Most Google+ users — 6.4 million — are in the United States, followed by India with 3.6 million, Canada with 1.1 million, Britain with 1.1 million and Germany with over 920,000, according to comScore.
Lipsman said many Google+ users appear to also be users of Google’s email program Gmail and display a “very strong early adopter profile.”
He said the ratio of men to women is about two to one and that 60 percent of Google+ users are between the ages of 18 and 34.
In the United States, the highest numbers of Google+ users are in the tech-savvy cities of San Francisco and Austin, Texas, he said.
Steve Rubel, executive vice president for global strategy and insights at public relations firm Edelman, said Facebook is not “vulnerable immediately” to Google.
“I don’t see (Google+) taking significant share from Facebook in the next 18 months,” Rubel said.
At the same time, “what we have seen is that over the years there’s never been a social network or community that has had significant staying power,” he said. “There’s always a shuffling every two or three years, a changing of the guard.
“We saw it with Myspace,” he said of the one-time social networking leader that has been eclipsed by Facebook and hemorrhaging users ever since.
Rubel said Google was compelled to try its hand at social networking because Facebook is restricting the access of its search engine to Facebook content.
“What’s happening is more content is being created behind Facebook’s walls than ever before and a lot of that content is invisible to Google,” he said.
“Conceptually, at least, they’re building kind of an alternate Web… There’s also an entire Web that is app-based on mobile phones. That is also invisible to them.”
Rubel said it was conceivable that more content would be invisible to them in five or 10 years than what the search engine can see today when created on Facebook or inside apps.
“So they had to make a play to get more people to create content on their site,” he continued. “It’s to get more people to spend time on Google.”
In unveiling Google+, Google stressed the ability it gives users to separate online friends and family into different “Circles,” or networks, and to share information only with members of a particular circle.
One of the criticisms of Facebook is that updates are shared with all of one’s friends unless a user has gone through a relatively complicated process to create separate Facebook Groups.
Facebook‘s facial-recognition feature for automatically tagging uploaded photos with the names of those pictured sparked a backlash from privacy advocates. Now it’s coming under scrutiny from Connecticut‘s attorney general, who sent a letter to company officials this week requesting a meeting.
“The potential uses of facial recognition on this scale remain unclear but concerning,” Jepsen wrote. “This important privacy issue needs to be addressed promptly. There may be some fairly simple changes that can be implemented to make certain that consumers are fully aware of the implications of ‘Tag Suggestions.'”
Facebook first introduced its “Tag Suggestions” tool in December, but it has recently accelerated the feature’s worldwide roll-out to the site’s 500 million members. Four privacy advocacy groups, including the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), banded together last week and filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. They asked the FTC to require Facebook to cease using facial recognition technology without users’ explicit, opt-in consent.
A Facebook representative said the company is in contact with Jepsen’s office and is “eager” to explain more about how Tag Suggestions works. However, Facebook is standing behind the tool and its widespread deployment.
“Since last December, we’ve been gradually rolling out the feature and millions of people have used it to add hundreds of millions of tags,” Facebook said in a written statement. “This data, and the fact that we’ve had almost no user complaints, suggests people are enjoying the feature and are finding it useful.”
Facebook members who don’t want their name to come up in the suggestions tool can disable it in their “privacy settings” panel. Facebook offers instructions for how to do that in its blog and in its “help” pages. Members can also un-tag themselves from a photo at any time.
But EPIC and other critics say those tools are too difficult to use, and that the onus should be on Facebook to expressly confirm users’ consent — not the other way around.
That issue is also at the heart of Jepsen’s gripe.
“In Facebook’s desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection — an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent,” Jepsen wrote in his letter.
Government regulators and policymakers are growing increasingly concerned about how tech companies handle user privacy
Goldman Sachs’s $450 million investment in Facebookhas raised many questions.
499 Holders Goldman Sachs is offering $1.5 billion worth of Facebook shares to its private clients. The clients will not hold the shares directly but will invest in a special investment vehicle that will hold the shares on their behalf.
Questions have arisen about whether this share issuance will push Facebook over 499 shareholders. Under federal securities laws — Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 — a company is required to begin reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission, filing quarterly and annual reports among other items, once it has more than 499 shareholders of record. This does not mean it needs to do an initial public offering, just commence these filings. The requirement to begin reporting is effective 120 days after the end of the fiscal year a company exceeded this amount. So, if Facebook goes over the amount this year, they are required to start reporting to the S.E.C. in early May of 2012.
Offering Violation The securities law issue here rests on whether there is a “general solicitation” such that this becomes a “public offering.” The federal securities laws strictly regulate any offering of shares. A company or underwriter like Goldman must find an exemption or otherwise register the securities with the S.E.C. The Facebook shares are not being registered, so Facebook and Goldman are relying on an exemption.
Goldman Goldman is offering Facebook shares to its clients. Goldman here is an investment adviser to these clients, so it does have a fiduciary responsibility to know its customers and recommend appropriate investments. Individual investors, however, may have different tastes for risk and different returns than Goldman’sprivate equity arm. The Goldman clients may be willing to accept a lower return for other reasons like the security of knowing that the valuation is unlikely to go down, as part of a portfolio that allows for more speculation, etc. No doubt Goldman has disclosed the risks associated with Facebook copiously, and if investors, being fully informed of the material facts here, still want to invest, Goldman is doing its job.
And end that’s a rumor that facebook is closing , that privacy leaking network is not ending till by March 15 2011.