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.