Google has always made it all too easy to join its not so beloved social network, but now it's forcing users to log in with Google+ in order to get better (and more lucrative) data for advertisers. For example, people who post restaurant reviews on Zagat, which Google bought in 2011, must now post them via their Google+ accounts. And you can't post on YouTube or use Gmail without a Google+ account anymore. Of course, Google+ has always been shamelessly integrated into the company's main product by way of social search, but at least you used to be able to use all other things Google without having your other other social network shoved in your face. Now a directive from CEO Larry Page has Google+ connected up with pretty much everything, sources tell The Wall Street Journal's Amir Efrati, and you can expect even more integration coming soon. "Google+ is Google," says Vice President Bradley Horowitz. "The entry points to Google+ are many, and the integrations are more every day."
It doesn't sound like we're going to have a choice. Google needs us. While Google+ has a small and loyal following, a lot of its reported growth comes from these enforced measures. At last count, the network had 500 million "users," many of whom we know did not sign up willingly. That's still half of Facebook's user base, and make no doubt: this is all about competing with Facebook, sources tell Efrati. Nobody joins Facebook, the top in 177 countries, by accident, but only 135 million of Google+'s 500 million users are "active in the stream," as Google's Vic Gundotra recently put it — as in, people who use Google+ because they want to interact with Google in a social way. The rest, of course, are mostly people who made an account because Gmail made them, never to visit the secondary social network again.