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Google+’s Ratio Problem

http://venturebeat.com/2011/08/25/google-plus-adds-more-women-after-mostly-male-launch/

Social networking websites have quickly become one of the most power tools on the planet. They have helped friends stay in touch over long distances and acted as a source of information for an entire nation of people as they banded together in the face of adversity. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare all owe their success to the power of social networks and the basic human desire to interact with other humans. The emergence of these social networking sites has brought about interesting ways that we can look at gender and how that affects the way humans interact.

The article above discusses the recent launch of Google+, Google’s take on social networking. When Google+ launched, they relied on users to invite their friends to the service. This strategy of utilizing the user’s already established social network to build their own proved to be extremely successful initially. As stated in the article, in just a month Google+ had over 20 million users. It had grown faster than any other social network to date. There was one pitfall to this strategy though; it did not take into account gender, and how the different sexes interact as a network. As Google+ grew so did a disparity in the ratio of male to female users. An outside survey of the Google+ users has approximately 32% of users as female. That gives a ratio of two men for every one female. Typical social networks, like Twitter, tend to have a larger female population.

So how does this relate to networks? If you take a step back, and look at the situation from a simplistic standpoint, you can view Google+ as a series of nodes. These nodes are the users of the website. When the initial website launched and invitations were sent out, nodes were created. As these nodes then sent out invitations to their friends, they created edges to the nodes they invited, like how all social networks work. What happened here was that males tended to invite their male friends more frequently than females invited their female friends. And so, as time went on, the male population grew at a faster rate than the female population. In an effort to combat this trend, Google has begun to ask females what feature they want to see in the website. They are hoping that certain features will be found more useful to females who will begin to use the service more frequently and thus begin to invite more females to the website.

Watching how Google+ grows in the future will provide an interesting look into how gender plays a role in networks, and how different genders find different value in certain features.

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