As we edge towards the end of 2012, we think the internet is looking more interesting than ever before.

Smartphone penetration (and so mobile internet use) has increased drastically and will continue to do so, Facebook has reached over a billion active users a month, and Twitter is, apparently, not just a fad.

Instagram has also sparked a bit of a furor with its new terms of service, which, if we’re to believe what the company says, only appear disagreeable because the language is confusing. (Legal language is definitely confusing, but we find it more than a little strange that everyone managed to ‘misinterpret’ the new terms of service in exactly the same way.)

Despite a well-crafted blog post by Instagram, companies like National Geographic have stopped posting on the social network for the time being, and we think NG are probably quite fluent in legalese. Maybe the language wasn’t so confusing, and maybe the new terms of service are just bogus. We’ll see.

But all that’s by the by. It hints at interesting things to come, but we think something bigger could be on the horizon. We want to talk about Google Plus. Is it actually going to be useful in the new year?

This is a difficult question to answer. We actually quite like Google Plus. It’s well designed (though many people would disagree on that point), and it does do a good job of integrating Google’s services. This, it seems, it what Google is trying to do, and what it’s counting of for the platform’s success.

It might well work, too. Google has been quite aggressive in getting users to link disparate accounts. The end result will be that, even if Google Plus isn’t directly used by many people, most will have an account and might eventually find the platform convenient. This is what Google’s wants, and if it happens they’ll have themselves a phenomenal  datamine.

Alternatively, we might find that Google Plus never takes off as a useful social media platform. This would be because it’s trying to occupy a social space that’s already occupied; a space, it seems, that no-one but Google wants Google Plus to occupy.

For some users, the company’s size is also a concern. We’ve had many conversations with ‘normal’ people (that is, people who are not super tech-savvy, do not work in advertising or marketing or IT, and generally don’t really care about these things) who, while unable to explain exactly why, are not particularly comfortable with Google owning the internet.

So what does this mean for Google Plus in 2013? Well, assuming some kind of anti-Google movement does not win popular support, we expect the platform’s active user base to continue growing. We assume there won’t be a backlash because, despite a bit of grumbling here and there, people are generally complacent. Having your accounts integrated across all of Google’s services is also quite useful. So while Google Plus might not reach a critical mass in 2013, we think it’ll probably make some headway. It could be worth getting ready.

What do you think about Google Plus? Will it be useful anytime soon? Why or why not? Let us know down in the comments!