Google+ already has 40 million users. That would be impressive if you got them all in one place, not so impressive when you compare the total to Facebook's 700 million users.
But before you write off Google+ as another high-profile Google fumble in the vein of Buzz and Wave, consider how many people use Google on a daily basis. Maybe you search for something either from Google.com or another source. Maybe you watch a YouTube video or check your Gmail. Google+ is being baked into all these products and Google executives are saying that the integration will run deep. It's easy to ignore something clunky like Google Wave when you had to make a special trip to get to it; Google+ will travel to you.
We talked to search expert John Battelle about what exactly Google intends to do here. He says what we're seeing now won't be what we see eventually: "I think most people understand Google+ to be Google's answer to Facebook, but I think both Google and those who have studied it believe the service believe is more than just another social network."
"For Google, one of their biggest problems is that they have so many products and so many customers. Over one billion people use Google, but Google doesn't have the mortar between the bricks, they don't pull it all together in some way and give people a reason to connect to each other, as opposed to a particular Google service. Whether it's Google Docs, Search, Android, or Google Maps or Earth. Google+ is an attempt to put people into Google products."
So once this thing is fully realized, what will my experience on Google look like?
"I think the idea," says Battelle, "is, number one at the end of the day, Google knows you well, so Google starts treating you with a particular identity that it understands. Number two, you can connect to people that matter to you through Google's services. Now, that may be a way for Google to ensure that you use those service. In other words, Google+ is not an end unto itself. Google+ is actually a service that is required in order to make Google's other services more valuable."
Battelle says unlike Wave or Buzz, Google+ is not a destination. "Google+ is an integration with everything else Google does," he says. "Over time, if they succeed, it will probably be viewed as a standalone destination."
Also in this program, Hunch.com wants to pool all the collective intelligence it can in order to help you pick what to watch on Netflix. Finally, technology you can use.