Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Thoughts On Google+

Google has never been very good at social networks. Despite a few genuine attempts to become the world’s favourite social network, Google has, until now, never seen success.


First, there was Google Wave. I, among many others would name it one of the most pointless services in the history of social networks for one reason – it is neither innovative nor creative to reinvent something that already exists. Wave was no more than an instant messaging service and an email service combined and this sort of thing is hardly revolutionary. And as Google already had such services in full swing (Gmail, Google Talk), it wasn’t long before Google Wave faced closure.


Next up was Google Buzz, a service built straight into Gmail. Google Buzz offered a very basic social experience – status updates, likes, and comments. Buzz was almost immediately criticised for being too public, and was rejected for being incapable and too basic. So as Buzz continued to fail, it was becoming obvious that Google plainly weren’t managing to keep up in a world that had focused in on social media in recent years. And this was a massive disappointment after their giant success with Gmail.

Google were doing it wrong. They were building and running social networks the way they thought they should be. While to them, these social solutions seemed brilliant and even genius, the general public thought otherwise and these services therefore fell flat.

But Google weren’t finished, and were in the market for a third chance. They were prepared to give it another shot. That third try was called Google+


Cautiously referred to internally as a project, this was like nothing Google had ever done before. And thankfully, they hadn’t made the same mistake again. Instead of attempting to invent yet another way to socialise on the web, they instead copied the model of the world’s most popular and well-known social network, Facebook. I myself had first impressions like “I’ve seen this somewhere before” upon entering Google+ for the first time.

But, delve deeper and you’ll find that what they have done is actually so much more than just Facebook with a Google colour scheme



Circles, for instance, is a brilliant (though slightly unintuitive for the layman user) method of friend organisation.

Sparks is another nice feature (this one, however, is stolen from Twitter!) that lets you view topics that interest you.

Hangouts is a fancy name for video chat. Hangouts are ideal for group video chat, something that Facebook has not yet mastered, somehow - a severe disappointment for their "awesome" press conference.

Google+ really provides the best social experience ever. It sports a great user interface and integrates other Google services that many people constantly interact with, such as Gmail and Google Calendar. Also, Google has released a brilliant Android app, and iOS users can take advantage of the pretty usable web-app while they wait for the soon-to-be-released iOS app.

But what’s interesting, however, is that despite providing a great experience, Google+ doesn’t introduce any ground breaking concepts or features. Every feature that Google+ provides is an improved and renamed version of something that already exists in other social networks. So while Google+ is well designed, nicely integrated and a joy to use, it is nothing close to revolutionary.

And this fact makes me wonder – will people actually bother to use it? I’m not talking about tech enthusiasts like myself who are excited to use it just because it motivates us – I’m talking about simple users who want to interact with friends and family. Will such users go to all the trouble of migrating their social lives to Google+ when they are perfectly comfortable within the realms of Facebook, with their already built up networks of friends? Possibly not.

Just because Google+ has been given attention in the tech world during it’s pilot period, doesn’t mean it will be embraced by the outside world when it is officially released. And even with improved functionality such as Circles, it may fail to be recognised as the primary social network.

Sure, if Google+ had been there first, then it would be the most used social network today. But it wasn’t - it was instead made up of lessons that were learned from social networks that were there first.

Don’t get me wrong – Google+ is better than Facebook, but not enough to overtake it in terms of users. The reason is that Facebook has a massive user base. Maybe it’s not the best social network – but simple users don’t really care. They have their social lives set up on Facebook; they won’t bother to move away.

I won’t write Google+ off completely, because I still feel that it has potential to become incredibly successful. But whether or not it is a Facebook killer is another question. But whatever happens, I’m just happy Google finally cracked it - giving users what they want - greater control over our own data and how we share it.

20 comments:

Raphael said...

Great report-I have never thought about it that way!

Mannie Fabian said...

Really well written!!!!!

Jonas Schoor said...

Being a tech geek I did not really get where you were coming from at first. But having read the whole article I agree that the take up of users may slow after the first 15-20mil. Still it may become a tech geeks paradise where we hear and see tech stuff and not all the stuff you get on Facebook. Great blog man!

Sam Worthing said...

While Google tweaks its math and tries to figure out how to beat Facebook, Quora is going about its business, slowly building a compelling alternative.

Mark Savage said...

Google’s strategy is now unveiled. They want to offer a little bit of everything you do and let you feel you have control over your data. How much control you have we will have to wait and see. Buzz proved that they cant get it wrong again!

Rakhi Dave said...

As usual - an excellently written article. Sorry to say - I'm not a techy but probably more technical then most 'non-techies' and I think I'm just finding Google+ a pain - let's see - will persevere for a while longer....but as you say it's no different to FB/Twitter...

Great Job Raffi

Maddie B said...

We are loving Google Plus and think it is a breath of fresh air in today’s Facebook / Twitter dominated social media world.Facebook fatigue could help out the launch of this competitor. Lets wait and see.

Ahmed W said...

Google + carries a different meaning, it is Google Plus you! It will follows you around the web to enable you to easily share things with fellow Google Plus users and also allows you to easily see what others have shared, this means that Google search algorithms will become less important whilst recommendations from your friends, acquaintances and colleagues will take over. This is the real value to Google creating this. I hope it takes off but I worry like you do about the standard user.

Simon Parsons said...

It is still early days for Google+, but already we are coming to terms with the new way of social networking> I like the way that shares can be directed at certain groups of friends (circles) and think that the integration into Google search will change the web massively in the future.

Martin C said...

If Google thinks they will have a tough time now with Facebook – then just wait! Microsoft announced that their new Bing search engine will be offering a social element (with facebook!). The two companies believe that they will be able to give Google something to worry about.

Tim Dempsey said...

Spot-on Rafi - but does Google have something up it's sleeve to trump Facebook?

Anonymous said...

Nicely written, but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I am sure I will try it out at some point.

Anonymous said...

Hey Raffi,

Great blog as usual. I think you area bit underestimating the huge will and power of Google. They will do everything in their mighty power to get social. Whats good though that it opens the market for competition it is very bad to have a single rules in any country or domain and social is no exception.
I think what is really interesting is the "new world order" formed in front of our eyes: Apple+Twitter Vs. Facebook+Micro$oft Vs. Google.
Maybe you will take a shot in exploring this in your next blog?

All the best and keep up this great blog,

Chaim

Ruth H said...

I just cant imagine having to keep up with all these social networks! Which one do I post to? Which one will I check in on? People will go where there are numbers - and at the moment Facebook wins hands down!

James Masters said...

A combined service that allows you to post stuff once and publish many is the way to go here. Forget Google and Facebook - lets wait for SN+ which posts to all!

Stuart Stevenson said...

Google are supposed to innovate not copy and make better. I was hoping for something new and fresh - not better and more private. I am sticking with Facebook - thats where my 830 friends are hanging out.

Howard said...

We just need someone to develop a tool to migrate our entire Facebook lives and history to Google+ which I believe is probably the one reason many users will take time to fully adopt Google+.

I also believe that Google+ is the key to world domination for Google. Once it has mastered the social world it will hold data about pretty much everyone and everything on its servers!

The UK will save millions every time a census comes round as it will be able to buy the data from Google.

Tali said...

Thank you Raffi, as the simple user, that confirms for me that I am going with the flow by waiting out to see if google + catches before trying to get my head around learning something new...

Kerry Bar-Cohn said...

Informative and well-written. Good job.

Howard said...

...and here is how to migrate your data from Facebook to Google+

http://miy.so/glifehacker

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