Three signs Google+ is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

Three signs Google+ is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

Summary: One month in, here's a look at three signs that Google+ is here for the long haul - and two signs that it's doomed to fail.

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Sometimes it seems like the population of the Internet has broken down into two camps: Those who think Google+ is the social networking equivalent of the Second Coming, and those who insist on fence-sitting, waiting to see how the fledgling Google+ deals with its first wave of crises before they jump over from Facebook.

In fact, some naysayers, like those at Business Insider, are wondering if Google+ has already peaked, with users decreasing while the gender ratio gets even more weighted towards males. All the same, Google+ has racked up an impressive 20 million users in the month or so since launch.

So keeping that in mind, here's a look at three signs that the optimists are right and Google+ is here for the long haul - and two signs that Google+ is doomed to fail.

Google+ is here to stay:

1. Humor: Everybody's a comedian, it seems, when it comes to Google+. SomeEECards.com notes the last person to group his friends into Circles. Web cartoonist Matthew Inman, better known as "The Oatmeal," offers this Lion King-infused take on Google Circles, while this cartoon on Google vs. Facebook vs. MySpace has been making the rounds on sharing sites like Reddit. And there are far more examples out there.

Why am I pointing this out? Because all these jokes indicate that users grasp Google+ and what it tries to do enough to both make these jokes and understand them. Where users used to make jokes about Facebook's creepy "Big Brother" functionality, cracks about Google Circles stand in their place.

Basically, if you so much as smiled at one of these, Google+ has its hooks in you.

2. Growing Fast: Three weeks in, Google+ hit a solid 10 million users, and that was while invitations were still pretty scarce. That number just shy of doubled to 18 million less than a week later, and two days after that Google+ hit 20 million registered users. That's especially impressive considering that it's still technically a field test, though Google Gmail was in beta for years.

Even celebrities and public figures are jumping on the Google+ bandwagon, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (whose first contributions to his followers were pictures of a kitten), singer Taylor Swift, and, perhaps unfortunately, socialite and reality television star Paris Hilton. Love them or hate them, prominent figures jumping aboard a social network is a bellwether of staying power.

It seems that even Google was caught flatfooted by Google Plus' appeal. But the search giant is moving to build out Google+ with talent and technology acquisitions like that of Fridge, which will enhance Google Circles for users in as-yet undeclared ways. And at the same time, Google+ is letting corporations join in with special business profiles while promising that games are soon to come.

3. Angry Users: Hear me out on this one - yes, users are putting together their own wishlists of things they wish Google+ would include, or problems and flaws that need fixing. But as ZDNet's own Steven J. Vaughan noted on the occasion of Ms. Hilton's Google+ debut, it's very often from a place of love for the product.

After all, Google+'s privacy-based approach has gained the social network its fair share of fans, and it would be stranger than anything if they couldn't work up the passion to brainstorm improvements. And unlike Facebook, where users now tend to take odd changes to privacy and functionality settings as the norm, Google+ is still very much a work in progress.

So, all that said, the case could be made that upset Google+ users are just die-hard fans in the making.

Google+ is doomed to fail:

1. History: Google Buzz, too, launched amidst a flurry of hype. Not only was it a short honeymoon - Google wound up paying $8.5 million in a privacy lawsuit. Buzz is still in operation, but enthusiasm for it died out both within and without Google very quickly, and it looks like the search giant has stopped development on its Twitter competitor altogether.

That's an extreme case, but at least Buzz survived Google's loss of interest. Google Wave, the company's big play into combining instant messaging, was killed entirely when it failed to find its audience. Same for Google Health and Google PowerMeter.

Now, I'm not saying that Google shouldn't phase out products that aren't making it money. The "Don't Be Evil" catchphrase aside, Google is a business, and it would be doing its shareholders a disservice if it were investing time and cash into unprofitable ventures.

But visits to Google+ are showing signs of decline, even as Wall Street analysts have begun worrying about Google's ROI and margins on the social endeavor. And from a personal, anecdotal perspective, it seems that my Google+ feed is a veritable ghost town sometimes, and the only really regular users I follow are those on Google Inc.'s payroll.

2. Angry Users: Everything I said above about passionate users still applies. But angry users are angry users, and when Google+ is deleting user profiles for violating its rules about tying a Google Profile to a real name, without explaining the reasoning to the user, anger can override passion.

And that's putting aside the bad PR around the time William Shatner, Captain Kirk himself, was temporarily banned from Google+ for being too popular. And ZDNet's Violet Blue has called Google+ "Fast, cheap, and out of control," in a harsh criticism of Google's rules around adult content (or lack thereof).

Essentially, users want more communication and guidance from Google than they've been getting, though the search giant has met in the middle in some cases. In other words, it seems like Google+ may be a revolutionary approach to social networking, but it comes with some lousy customer service.

No Clear Answers

At the end of the day, it's easy for cynics to call Google+ a Facebook-killer and then get frustrated when the house that Zuckerberg built is still standing a month later. But Facebook took seven years to get where it is, while Google+ has had a month almost exactly to the day.

Give it another six months, and see if Google+ has kept growing its users. Maybe then, we'll have some hints as to the future of the Google+ vs. Facebook fight for supremacy. But when it comes to a company like Google, even six months is practically a lifetime. Just look how much chatter Google+ has generated in just one.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Apps, Google

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63 comments
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  • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

    Facebook does everything I need and all my friends are on there. Why would I go somewhere that very few people even know about relatively speaking? I'll pass on Google+.
    Tiggster79
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @LynxSteve
      People would have said the same about MySpace, but it is now all but defunct after users moved to FaceBook. It will be interesting to see how G+ unfolds and whether or not it has an impact on FB.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @ptorning Facebook is a shambles and a disgrace, if Google + in it's fully developed form will offer all the facilities of Facebook but without being massively compromised by hacking as Facebook is and would have relatively reasonable moderation which Facebook doesn't, I think many people who have an interest in political and social issues and wish to discuss such matters on a social networking site, who are not the likes of foaming at the mouth Nazis or well intended useful idiots will probably dump Facebook.
        Adrian_Wainer
      • Myspace was never ubiquitous.

        @ ptorning

        Myspace peaked at about 100 million active users, mostly in the US. Facebook has about 750 million active users, with the majority (about 70 per cent) outside the US. That's a slight majority of the global internet user base by some estimates, if Chinese internet users are excluded -- which is reasonable since the Chinese state blocks access to Facebook.

        It isn't of course impossible for Google+ to overtake Facebook, but with the majority of internet users worldwide (excluding China) already being active Facebook users, it's a much higher mountain to climb than the one Facebook faced when it successfully overtook Myspace. Facebook also offered compelling advantages over Myspace, and it's less clear that that's the case with Google+ versus Facebook.

        It's of course obvious why Google have built a Facebook clone: Facebook's got the potential to develop into a competing platform for web advertising, and Google don't like competition. They currently enjoy a dominant position in web advertising (what some lawyers/journalists might call a 'monopoly'), and it's clear that most of their new 'services' -- from Chrome to Android to Google+ -- are designed to erect barriers to entry, and thereby to protect Google's dominant web advertising position from competition (as opposed to building potentially profitable new businesses).

        If I were running Facebook, I'd be talking intensively with the Chinese government about expanding into China -- perhaps with some sort of 'Chinese Wall' to separate Chinese users from 'dangerous' Western users, at least initially, and some sort of political oversight to ensure Chinese users don't violate Chinese law. Google are clearly hostile towards China, so probably haven't got a chance there. If Facebook (the firm) can convince the Chinese that they aren't hostile, and then gradually integrate Chinese users into their network, they may become unbeatable (and help support gradual liberalisation in China too).
        WilErz
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

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        3shao
    • Message has been deleted.

      Adrian_Wainer
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @Adrian_Wainer

        What the fuck are you on about?
        OffsideInVancouver
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @LynxSteve I bet that's what MOST people said when Facebook was born - who needs them, I'm on Myspace and it has everything I need.
      Charles_B
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @cboquin I bet very FEW people said that, actually. I had a MySpace account, and people I knew had it, but none of us used it or could figure out what the hell it was really good for anyway. FB is NOTHING like MySpace was.
        fawlty70
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @LynxSteve Totally agree...can't see my family or friends moving anytime soon aside from some of the young geeky ones. The others are happy with what they know...call it technology comfort syndrome but most users once they figure out how to use something its difficult to get them to go try something else that pretty much does the same thing.
      GeiselS
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @LynxSteve

      Google + does as much for me as Facebook, which is very little. Like a lot of people I use FB intermittently to stay in touch with family, simply because it's a central location and saves having to send out multiple emails. It's like the bulletin boards I used to use before the Internet became popular ;-)

      Do we need another one? Not really, but then I think we only need one browser too ;-)
      tonymcs@...
  • The verdict is still out on Google

    But as I compare it to Facebook and all of the attendant 'noise level', Google+ lets me control that.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, *~* Your Linux Advocate
      The control over noise and who sees your posts are the huge advantages G+ has over Facebook. I still check FB, but hate doing it. The newness is wearing off on G+, but I still prefer the way it does things versus FB. I am hoping G+ is here to stay, because the idea of going backward to FB just makes me cringe.
      BillDem
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @BillDem another thing that pains me when I go to Facebook is not being able to format my posts and comments like I can on G+. It makes FB look rather primitive, for all the work they've put into it. All the efforts and improvements are for the monetization, not really the user experience.
        anonymous
  • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

    Will bite the dust soon.
    owlnet
  • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

    G+ is good but so is FB. It's one thing to attract 20M curious users, it's another to keep them.
    themarty
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @themarty

      Well put.
      josh92
    • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

      @themarty Facebook is not good it is rubbish, it is hacked in a multitude of aspects by Islamists or their fellow travelers and their moderation sides with characters exhibiting psychopathic type behaviors against ordinary decent Facebook users.
      Adrian_Wainer
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @Adrian_Wainer Facebook satisfies the needs of million of people each day, thus it is good for what it's supposed to do. When users are satisfied, it's hard to make them switch. G+ should be able to capture the non-FB people. As for the psychos out there, I'm sure they'll be there no matter what tools you use.
        themarty
      • RE: Three signs Google is here to stay (And two that it's doomed)

        @Adrian_Wainer Do you have any proof of this?
        athynz