Google+ Invites

Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 5:49 pm
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I’m writing a quick post about this both so that I don’t have to keep repeating myself, but also because it’s something kind of interesting that I haven’t seen many people talking about.

For context, at the time this post was written Google+ has been released and is still in private beta, so people are scrambling for invites.

Traditionally, invites have been handled via a company giving out a set number of invites to beta users who then decide who to send those invites to. Users might get 5 invites to send out today, and then another 5 next week. This keeps the user base of the product fixed for server load testing and usage and things like that, but it also puts users in a bit of an awkward position of having to choose between their friends. If I only have 5 invites I either have to pick my 5 favorite friends, which bums out those who didn’t make the cut, or I have to offer them “first come first serve” which then maybe isn’t exactly the people I think who might get the most use of the product. Regardless, that is the beta invite method used by pretty much everyone.

But with Google+, they are doing something different. Rather than giving beta users a set number of invites, they are systemwide making invites an option or not. They are turning on the invite/sign up process when they want to add to the userbase, and then turning it off when they think they have enough people. To the user this is time based, not count based. Which means people asking “does anyone have an extra invite” are asking the wrong question because in effect there are no invites. When invites are on, they are unlimited. So any user can invite anyone and everyone, as long as they do it within that window before Google turns off the invites – AND so long as the recipient signs up in that window before the cut off time. The time of course isn’t made public, and in fact might even be arbitrary. But from a user perspective it’s either on or off.

For example, last night invites were briefly on for an hour or so, and during that time I sent out a few hundred invites (I did it in one shot by inviting a whole list, not by hand. Duh.) Many of those people signed up right away and got in. Some of those people didn’t see the email till this morning and tried to sign in and are not able to create accounts.

I actually think this time system is much better than the count based system, and it’s probably better from the companies perspective too. With a set number of invites, I might never use them, or I might send them to people who don’t bother to use them. With this time based system, they only get users who are active and engaged right this second. And as a user, I don’t have to try to decide who is worthy and who isn’t.

So no, I don’t have any invites left. But stay tuned.



  1. That was very helpful and now I feel like an idiot. LOL :)

    Comment by Photographess — July 7, 2011 @ 7:09 pm
  2. Clear and informative. Thanks!

    Comment by MrAllenU — July 8, 2011 @ 3:04 am
  3. That makes sense; I’d gotten several invites but whenever I tried they gave me a “temp. busy” sign and wouldn’t let me in.

    They were open this afternoon (right now it’s 7/7/11 9:14 pm MDT), if anyone’s tracking it.

    Comment by Brennan — July 8, 2011 @ 3:15 am
  4. Just curious how it works when it is on.

    Is there a big red flag at the top when it’s on? Do I have to keep visiting my circles or something?

    Comment by cybele — July 8, 2011 @ 3:15 am
  5. Excellent post…thanks for the info. If you get anymore invites, I’d be much appreciative. Thx

    Comment by Andy — July 8, 2011 @ 3:22 am
  6. Actually, people who have received the email invite and still can’t sign on should keep trying periodically. I’ve had about 10 folks who kept trying and eventually got in even though we couldn’t send new invites at that moment.

    @cybele – you’ll see an Invite icon/text under the Get Mobile on your home page.

    Comment by Christi Nielsen — July 8, 2011 @ 3:32 am
  7. Thanks very much for the explanation. I would love an invite when “it’s on!” :-)

    Comment by Ivan Storck — July 8, 2011 @ 3:34 am
  8. There’s a hack for sending invites. Type “click the view or comment link below and you will be able to join Google plus” in the Share box and where it says “Add circles or people to share with…” You type in the emails of people you want to invite. Click share

    They get an email with the “click the view or comment link…” instructions and when they click it they should be able to create a new account.

    It’s worked for me at least a dozen times, when invites were closed.

    Comment by Dylan — July 8, 2011 @ 3:46 am

    Comment by Venita — July 8, 2011 @ 3:54 am
  10. I thought it was an urgent call for help saving earth, people, science, civil rights, or tangible progress demanding crowdsourcing mental collaboration. Now I have to go back to being unsure of what I am for.

    Comment by Francis Gentile — July 8, 2011 @ 5:03 am
  11. Thanks for explaining the invite system! I finally got into Google+ and I was just wondering how I can invite my friends and family. Now I know I’ll have to keep a close eye on it for when the window opens…

    Comment by Corey Freeman — July 8, 2011 @ 5:25 am
  12. I got my invite but is the only way to actually get in to wait for them to flash an open sign? Like a Krispy Kreme ‘hot donuts now’ sign?

    Comment by Vago Damitio — July 8, 2011 @ 8:07 am
  13. This is a terrible system. It turns what used to be a small favour (‘send me an invite’) into an impossible commtiment that involves chases a capricious, disappearing invite window, online.

    If I want an invite, I only have two choices: (1) pester my friends to play an insane game of ‘watch the website endlessly for that rare opportunity’ — and frankly, though they are a good friends, I doubt that they are willing to dedicate that much attention in their lives simply to the act of getting me a Google+ invite. Or, my other choice is (2) stop caring and just wait for an invite to come to me, or not — whatever.

    I choose #2 because I’m not an inconsiderate ass and I don’t wish to waste people’s time. If I ever do get onto Google+, I will probably be endlessly pestered by friends wishing me to play this stupid game for them, so that they can get on to, and I certainly won’t be willing to bother, so my friends won’t get on, either.

    Essentially all this does is replace a system of selecting one’s friends to join your in a beta program, with an essentially random system that satisfies no one and actually prevents anyone from having their friends join them without monitoring the website like some sort of social networking maniac.

    Comment by Laroquod — July 8, 2011 @ 8:43 am
  14. I have an invite and see the over capacity every time I click it. Am I understanding correctly that I need to keep clicking throughout the day to get in, or when they allow others in, will my account be ready for me to set up? anyone know? Thanks.

    Comment by Sean Caldwell — July 8, 2011 @ 12:56 pm
  15. The Full Explanation of Google+ Invites mentioned this Article on

    Pingback by The Full Explanation of Google+ Invites — July 8, 2011 @ 1:23 pm
  16. I Believe that step 8 is what got me in 2 days ago, but I NEVER got an email notification and didn’t have to click on any link.
    a Friend added me to one of his circles (with my email) as mentioned in step 8.
    Few hours later I saw on Twitter that the gates were opened again. I went on and from there I was able to create my profile and I was in. I tried it with a friend and 5 min later he was in too. I think that once you got an invite, it’s just a matter of trying when the gates are opened, and they are not opened for very long :-). Good luck.

    Comment by Shash — July 8, 2011 @ 1:27 pm
  17. What Laroquod said ^. I now know what it’s like to be the last one picked for kickball.

    Comment by saracsit — July 8, 2011 @ 3:58 pm
  18. RE: Dylan/#8–that’s how I got in as well, but when I tried to “invite” a handful of people that way, none of them were able to sign up. I think that those links don’t work any better/worse than a normal invite, or just going to the Google + home page, unless Google is currently allowing new accounts to be created.

    Comment by David Z. — July 8, 2011 @ 5:22 pm
  19. I completely disagree with Laroquod on this, I think a this method is much less elitist and selective, and more open to everyone not just the cool kids.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — July 8, 2011 @ 7:37 pm
  20. I’m not sure how the old invite system is elitist unless the invites themselves are distributed in an elitist way. I never had a problem getting invites and I am certainly not connected via social networking (beyond just following on Twitter) anyone who is any sort of ‘elite’. The rotating time window however, definitely deters people who aren’t willing to sacrifice a lot of their time to social networking, and I’m pretty sure this is intentional on Google’s part. That doesn’t mean I have to like the fact that I am now apparently in the group of users who are disfavoured by invite system.

    They’ve just changed the winners and losers of the invite system, that’s all. This is not really about elitism at all.

    Comment by Laroquod — July 8, 2011 @ 11:19 pm
  21. Still disagree, think of it this way:

    Old system: I own a restaurant and invite you to come check it out. You show up at the door with 10 of your friends, I welcome you in but say you can only bring 3 of your friends with you, the other 7 have to wait outside until I feel like letting them in. It’s elitist because you have to pick your elite friends to join you, the rest don’t get in.

    New system: I own a restaurant and invite you to come check it out. You can bring as many of your friends as you want, you just have to come where the restaurant it open for business. If it’s closed no one can get in, but when it’s open, everyone can get it. Not elitist because there is no picking and choosing who is cool enough to get in or not.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — July 9, 2011 @ 7:42 am
  22. Elitism doesn’t mean ‘being forced to make a choice’. Battle medics are forced to make choices — that doesn’t make them elitists. They are only ‘elitist’ if they make their choice according to prejudicial factors like race, class, depth of knowledge, etc. The old invite system did not force any elitism on anyone; everyone was perfectly free to choose to distribute invites according to whatever factors they choose. Simply liking certain people than others, perhaps, is not elitism.

    Anyway, as for ‘picking and choosing who is cool enough’, that still happens, it’s just ingrained into the system and, unlike before, it now proceeds according to a hardcoded and quite prejudicial factor: who is obsessed enough with social networking to robo-refresh some invitation page throughout the day? Those people get in (and all their friends, to keep their habit fed); the rest I suppose are not ‘cool’.

    Like I said it’s just a new set of winners and losers. In fact, the old system was way more neutral about who those winners and losers would be, and left it to the users. The new system, however, has much more of an *opinion* about who the winners and losers should be, and I am on the losing side, and here you are telling me it’s less ‘elitist’ now — do you really expect me to buy that? Unsurprisingly, I just don’t.

    Comment by Laroquod — July 9, 2011 @ 12:11 pm
  23. Sorry, still not buying it. You seem to be complaining because you aren’t in and want to some how make that the fault of the system since you always get in with other invite systems. But there is simply no way that a system that allows *anyone* is more selective than one that only allows a few people.

    Comment by Sean Bonner — July 9, 2011 @ 4:41 pm
  24. Selectivity operates through time as well as space. Just because the restriction is happening via time windows doesn’t mean it isn’t a restriction. Anyway, you aren’t really considering my arguments very carefully or responding to anything specifically, so I think we are at an impasse, regarding further dialogue on this. Agree to disagree, thanks for the discussion.

    Comment by Laroquod — July 10, 2011 @ 1:45 pm
  25. At first, i was clamoring like everyone else. I wanted to be invited to the party. I use nearly every Google product or service, and I am an early adopter of their new technologies. If Google is looking for Beta testers, I’m a perfect candidate. But alas, no invite. Now, enough time has passed that I am starting to think with my head again. Today, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Google+ with their stupid elitist invite system is spammish itself, iMHO. If I ever receive an invitation, I’ll probably decline. It’s the only way I can restore my since of dignity. I will choose whether or not I would like to avail myself of this new Google product, after I have had a chance to think about, and after the kinks have been worked out. Remember “Buzz”? Just sayin…

    Comment by Bruce — July 10, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

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