Is Google staking its future on a 'pathetic afterthought'?

Larry Page underscores importance of Google+ to company's future in earnings call

During Thursday's earnings conference call, Google chief executive Larry Page talked about Google+, the search giant's Facebook-challenging social networking platform.

In fact, Google+ is just about all Page talked about.

After giving a brief nod to Google's impressive third-quarter results ("Revenue was up 33% year-on-year, and our quarterly revenue was just short of $10 billion, not bad for a 13-year-old."), Page goes all Google+ on call participants, offering the following:

"Look at Google+, we had 100 features launched in 90 days, the team is really cranking. We had Hangouts on the phone, Hangouts on air, Will.i.am did a Hangout from his concert in Central Park. You can now share Circles. You can search Google+ and you can play games in Google+. And far and most exciting of all, open sign-ups, Google+ for everyone."

"Looking at the numbers for Google+, I was taken aback. I now want to announce that we passed the 40 million user mark on Google+. People are flocking into Google+ at an incredible rate and we're just getting started."

Ah, but haven't we been reading lately that Google+ traffic is down sharply because people would sign up for the social platform and then stop using it? What about engagement? Larry's on it:

"The engagement we're seeing is phenomenal too. Over 3.4 billion photos have already been uploaded in Google+. But it's still incredibly early days for Google+ because our goal is actually far bigger than the individual feature launches themselves. Our ultimate ambition is to transform the overall Google experience, making it beautifully simple, almost automagical because we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly.

Automagical?

Page is correct in that Google+ is still in its infancy and that it's far too early to judge the social platform's long-term success. But he also made clear that Google+ is critical to the company's future:

"Let me finish by saying that we are still at the very early stages of what technology can deliver. These tools we use online will look very different in 5 years time. We're building those tools now as Google+, which is why I'm so excited to be here."

That does sound exciting, unless what Google engineer Steve Yegge said in an inadvertently published rant against Google+ is true:

"The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought."

"Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product."

Pathetic afterthought? Knee-jerk reaction? Study in short-term thinking? If what Yegge wrote is anywhere near correct, Google+ is headed for trouble. And so is Google.

I saw a transcript of Thursday's earnings call, but it didn't include questions and answers. Did any analyst ask Page about Yegge's comments about Google+? It would seem like an obvious topic to bring up, being the company's big bet on the future of technology and all.

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