Since the launch of Google+ in June 2011 Google has adopted a very aggressive strategy to promote its Facebook-like social networking site. Burned by the abject failures of its Google Buzz, Google Wave and Google Friend Connect, and embarrassed by the fading popularity of Orkut outside dial-up connections in the Lusophone world, the Mountian View, CA based company is determined to leverage its dominance in search to make its latest foray into social networking a success.
In that effort Google has thus seeded its now ubiquitous "+1" button across its search results, YouTube, and AdSense. Its has privileged Google + content over that of Facebook and Twitter in its search engine. It has strongly recommended users of other Google services such as Gmail and Picassa to sign up for Google+. It has recently fundamentally redesigned the site to make it look more like Facebook's Timeline. And the company even ran a Google+ ad featuring The Muppets during the Academy Awards.
For all its efforts Google has created a social network that now boasts 170 million users. But according to an analysis by Google+ users only spend on average 3 minutes a month on the site, while spending over 400 minutes a month on Facebook. This disparity has led some critics to accuse Google of doing nothing but creating "the Internet's largest ghost town."
All That #Glimirz
To remedy the problem Google CEO Larry Page announced today during a non-Muppet related "Hangout" on Google+ that the company is ready to start opening its checkbooks to get users to stay on the site. In a very bold move Google has created a points-based reward system that allows the company to track and quantify each user's engagement levels and compensate them accordingly.
Every post, share, and comment will count towards "G-points", a virtual currency which will only be redeemable for South African gold Krugerrand coins. Each 1000 G-points will entitle the user to a 1/10 ounce coin (currently worth around $177 USD). For 10000 points users will get a full ounce coin. The system is intended to incentivize increased engagement from core users and create a viral effect as heavy users' activities spread to the wider web.
Page said he was willing to stake the entire $46 billion USD cash pile of the company on the scheme, arguing that "social media is the future, and the future of our company depends on our dominance of the sector."
However, investor groups immediately criticized the company for being careless with its cash, and especially questioned the expense of mailing gold coins to homes around the world in lieu of direct deposit transfers or a cross-promotion with Google's own mobile payment system Google Wallet. Page defended the plan by reminding Wall Street that:
"In social media all that matters is what's trending - and gold is the hottest currency in the world at the moment."
The price of gold rose 6% in London trading after the announcement in anticipation of heavy buying from the technology giant. -TDC
Editor's Note: For readers unaccustomed to Google's efforts to promote Google+ the Muppets advertisement below offers a good taste of the amusing lengths to which the company will go in order to get G+ off the ground: