Google+ debuted as would could be argued as the most significant social network challenge to Facebook yet. Although it has been accessible on an invite-only basis since it launched in late June, membership numbers have increased by the millions on a weekly basis.
Yet, enthusiasm for Google+ has died down a bit considerably in the last month. Thus, it's time to open the digital doors to everyone.
Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, wrote on the official Google blog:
For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.
As Gundotra acknowledges that Google+ has a long way to go when it comes to pushing out features to keep competing with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the rest of the social media sphere, it's a tad surprising that it took Google+ to become open to the public after this long. At this point, it seems like anyone who wanted to sign up for Google+ must have known someone who could have invited them by now.
I must have had nearly a hundred invites at my disposal by last week, and I didn't use one. (Now Spotify -- those invites are still hot tickets.)
However, Google+ has had some challenges along the way -- most of which Google brought upon itself. Namely, the name issue. Google has been beaten up in the blogosphere for deleting accounts that it deemed to be fake based on however they were judging people's names. (Just read ZDNet's Violet Blue's account of what happened to her account.)
It also doesn't help that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt basically said that Google wants to own everyone's online identities.
Nevertheless, Google+ does have some growing to do. Many analysts speculate that the Internet isn't big enough for two giant, general social networks. Time will tell if Facebook and Google+ can co-exist, or whether one will kill off the other.