Sergey Brin made a surprise appearance alongside Google+ head Vic Gundotra at the Web 2.0 Summit this afternoon, and the two talked about how Google+ came to be and how it’s doing.
Gundotra said that the company is impressed that they got to 40 million sign-ups so fast. Those numbers are “above our internal projections, even our wildest projections.”
Are they using it? He said so. “They signed up and they’re using it.” He said that people uploaded 3.4 billion photos over the last three days. “That’s a big number even by Google standards.” A lot of those photos and videos are coming from Android phones.
All those photos are private by default, by the way. Gundotra differentiated Google’s approach from Facebook’s approach by saying “there’s a reason that every thought in your head does not come out of your mouth.”
Gundotra addressed criticisms by Google employee Steve Yegge, whose private memo was accidentally shared on Google+. He was critical about the lack of APIs when Google+ launched.
“Originally that was an internal document….Within the Google family we are very honest and critical about our efforts. The outside world got a peek at what it was like to work at Google….That is why we didn’t fire him.” He also said that Google is moving slowly on its developer APIs on purpose — they don’t want to release APIs and then go back on them later. “I’d rather do it slow, do it carefully — we don’t have our strategy figured out….We’re not going to do anything haphazard or rushed.”
Brin also said he didn’t make it past “the first 1,000 pages” of Yegge’s memo [zing!] and said he would advise critics to be a little bit briefer. “I sometimes use it as a night-time aid now.”
Gundotra insisted that some of the best Google+ features — like Hangouts, the outstanding live video chat feature — were pushed by Brin.
Brin shot back, “I was being sarcastic at the time….The lesson is you should not listen to me as a designer, but as a user I’ve been very pleased with the results.” As he put it later. “I’m the peanut gallery…whenever there are any challenges, I say ‘it’s your play.'”
So how will Google+ steal normal users away from Facebook and Twitter?
Gundotra noted that everybody is already on Google, and the company doesn’t think it’ll be that hard to get them to try the social network. They’ll see other interesting strangers on there, and eventually will invite their friends to try it out.
Brin also defended Google Apps, saying that he’s not seeing Microsoft’s Office 365 taking over as Steve Ballmer said last night. He conducted a spot poll of the audience and far more startup employees were using Gmail for their company email than were using other products.
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