Google+ may not be the king of social media, but it has "a very passionate audience" that loves the social network for what it gives them. That's what new Google social media head David Besbris said in an exclusive interview with Re/code's Kurt Wagner.
Ever since seven-year Google+ chief Vic Gundotra stepped down from his post in April, it has been widely speculated that Google+ is dying a slow death as it fails to amass the large following that its rivals Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn and Pinterest were able to achieve. However, Besbris says Google+ isn't about doing things just because other companies are doing them. It's about how it can make users happy with "software that's scratching some itches."
"People underestimate the connection Google+ has with its users around interests," he tells Wagner. "I think people come to Google+ with this expectation that it's going to be Google's attempt to do some other product - we're doing this to compete with somebody and it must be something like that. That's not actually how we compete with products."
Besbris refused to talk about numbers, but he says users "love Google+ to death" because of the differentiated features that Google+ offers. He mentions Circles, where users can choose which groups of contacts can see a certain post, and says that users sharing things with everybody on their friends' list "is just not the correct model for humanity."
"It's actually something I use every single day with my friends and family and my interests, talking about photography and my unnatural affection for little squirrels," he says. "So I'm a passionate user of these things."
This means Google+ is not likely going to incorporate highly popular products such as ephemeral messaging apps and anonymous communications anytime soon. Facebook has been taking stabs at creating standalone apps centered on these features and has so far seen its efforts failing at gaining traction. Besbris makes it clear that it doesn't mean Google will not create its own products, only that "it's bad to lump all social interactions into one product space."
And unlike Facebook, which makes majority of its revenue on advertisements that many users have taken a dislike for, Google+ does not show ads. Asked if Google+ has plans of incorporating them in the future, Besbris says he doesn't rule everything out but he currently doesn't see ads as "valuable as they're often done in the industry."
Asked what improvements Google+ has in store, he talks about mobile. Besbris says he is "really happy" with the mobile apps for Google+ but there are several other features, such as "stuff we can do with location" that can create whole new experiences for the Google+ user accessing his account from his smartphone or tablet.
"I think as an industry we've barely tapped the surface of what this can do," Besbris says.
Finally, addressing rumors that Google+ was shutting down and the team was being disbanded to work on other Google projects, Besbris says Google+ is "the largest we've ever been."
"We're actually very happy with the progress of Google+," he says. "[CEO Larry Page] said this at the time that Vic transitioned that he's going to continue working on building this stuff, that he's very happy with it. The company is behind it. I have no idea where these rumors come from, to be honest with you."