By now, it’s a depressingly familiar business tactic from Google. The search giant changes a feature somewhere in its arsenal of services to make that service integrate more tightly, and annoyingly, with the social network Google+. Sign-ups are required. Engagement is mandated. Then Larry Page gets to claim increased Google+ user numbers on the next quarterly earnings call — perhaps in the hope that having those numbers widely reported will in itself create an inevitable, Facebook-like rush to join the service.

At the end of 2013, it was YouTube comments, which now require a Google+ login. On Thursday, it was the turn of Gmail, that storied, highly respected, 11-year old free email service, to be saddled with a feature nobody wanted. Gmail users can now be contacted by anyone, anywhere on Google+ (they have to add you to their Circles first, but that’s a formality).

You can choose to opt out of this feature, of course. But we know how this movie ends: millions of users will be too busy, or they’ll miss the opt-out email, and the first they’ll know about it is when they get a message from some guy they met at a conference once, someone they didn’t give their email address to for a reason.

What Page and Google seem maddeningly unaware of is that nobody can ever be forced into having a party. That in fact, the forcing is what makes a party impossible. If a host made you promise to go to his party before you could pass comment on a TV show in your own home, if he co-opted your local mail service to send you constant invitations from people you’ve never heard of, if he boasted about how many other people were going because he’d forced them to RSVP — well, would all that make you more or less likely to attend his shindig?

A social network is supposed to be fun. It’s a riotous social affair, full of life and color, a global party where everyone’s goofing off and catching up. Yes, we like to share baby photos and schedule events and share messages with select people, but we do this because all our friends are there. A good party has soul. Google+ has always seemed a little too hung up on the mechanics — the photo sharing options, the event invitations, Circles. At Christmas they make trees twinkle and snow fall on your photos. Neat novelties, but ultimately soulless if none of our friends are there. This party host seems convinced that all you need for a better party than your neighbor is better decorations and spiffy letterpress invites.

I don’t mean to denigrate the people who are having fun on Google+, however many there are (a proper headcount would definitely help, and we won’t get that until Google divorces the number of people who just use Hangouts, which really belongs in the Gmail/Google Chat camp). They’re having fun, it works for them, more power to them. I bet a lot of users are quite embarrassed about the way Google is trying to strong-arm the rest of us into joining.

I’d love to give it a proper go someday. I’d love to see if I could find a use for Circles (but really, why segregate a party? Aren’t our best parties ones with lots of random collisions of people from opposite ends of our social spectrum?)

Every time I visit Google+, sad to say, there’s an unpleasant taste in my mouth. I associate the service with accidentally clicking the wrong button in Gmail or Google Calendar or Google Maps, or being forced to sign in for some random reason. It’s like going to the DMV. You can dress it up as nicely as you like, it’s still the DMV.

There’s one way Google+ could become party central, and that’s for Google to deny us access. Put a velvet rope in front of it and don’t let anyone in without one of a limited set of invitations — a tactic that has worked well for other Google products, from Gmail to Project Glass. It worked well for Facebook, back in the day.

The parties we want to join, it turns out, are the ones that might be just a little too cool and exclusive for us. And right now, that’s certainly not Google+.

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Mashable By Chris Taylor