How is Google+ for Dating?
If you have been among the fortunate and happy few to receive a Google+ invite, you may have noticed a pronounced gender imbalance on Google's not-a-social-network, with many more men than women. And it wasn't just your imagination: it turns out that 88% of Google+ members are men, according to Google Analytics, compared to 10% for women and 2% for "other."
In other words, Google+ is a total sausage-fest, at least so far. That's not terribly surprising, considering that the early invitations circulated in nerdlicious tech circles where Y chromosomes run rampant. It also resembles the adoption curve for some other tech products, which seem to exert an early fascination on a relatively small number of male early adopters before spreading to larger numbers of less-tech-savvy men and women -- i.e., going mainstream.
So the real question is how the Google+ gender balance changes as time goes on: if Google+ catches on as a hot new social network, presumably the gender balance will gradually right itself before stabilizing around the roughly 51%-49% female-male proportion of the general population. If Google+ fails to catch on, I would expect both the overall number of users and the proportion of female users to remain small.
All this begs the question: how is Google+ for dating? This might sound like a trivial or flippant concern, but in my humble op-ed it is actually a major issue for any general-purpose social network. Facebook has succeeded by offering features and functionality which (it claims) are relevant to practically every major area of human life, from keeping up with relatives, to sharing pictures with friends, to professional networking, and so on. And one of the most popular uses, whether advertised or not, is meeting people for dating.
Although there are any number of committed online dating sites, Facebook recommends itself for romantic trolling for a number of reasons: it's free; you can see endless numbers of profiles, and the pool of potential partners for both genders is huge; you can check out photos, interests and other qualities that may be important in a prospective partner (perspective on life, spelling ability); and you can trace connections through mutual friends and acquaintances, which presumably confers some kind of character recommendation, and also gives you something to talk about as an icebreaker. I think Facebook's online dating functionality is important even for people who are in relationships or don't think of themselves as "on the market": Facebook is always there as a fallback if things in their current relationship turn sour, or they decide to get back into dating.
In light of the importance of online dating for social networks, how does Google+ stack up? This is a good question, especially considering that Google has deliberately positioned Google+ as a more private alternative to Facebook, suggesting there may be fewer opportunities for idly browsing the profiles of people you don't know, and less access to content (e.g. photos) that people look for when canvassing for dates online. Basically, is Google+ any good for checking out hot strangers and getting in touch with them?