When Google+ was launched in June 2011, it didn’t gain the traction that Google expected initially. When Google announced the “huge shift” that Google+ will undergo in May 2015, everyone knew – Google+ is dead.
Now, Google refers to it as “an interest-based social experience” although people are sceptical about how social it is especially with a mere 7 minutes of dwell time compared to Facebook’s 7 hours and 30 minutes. That’s according to Nielsen.
To put things in perspective, here are the main 5 reasons Google+ had been collecting dust even since its inception. A harsh reality. Period.
1. Google+ Has No Social Purpose
Google has a sordid history of failed social attempts from Orkut to Reader to Friend Connect then to Wave and Buzz. All of these has been catastrophic for the tech giant. Such disappointments were carried to operating Google+.
Initially, Google defined the service as a social network, but when it didn’t work, the company referred to it as “a social layer across all of Google’s services.” Apparently, the social foundation of Google+ is problematic. Google just pushed (almost forcefully) the creation of a Google+ account in order to use other products and services such as when publishing a comment in YouTube.
In May 2015, its main features – photos and communications – became separate Google products in the name of Google Photos and Google Hangouts, respectively. Although, the latter was already announced and operating since 2013. As noted above, Google now refers to Google+ as an interest-based networking, focusing on Communities and Collections in an attempt to narrow its scope.
2. Google+ Was Built To Respond To A Threat
By the time Google+ was launched, Facebook had already garnered 500 million users. Facebook is the existential threat to Google. Hence, it created a ‘social’ product that proved to be not so social at all. Now, Google+ is tech people’s favourite punchline.
First, it was built with no social intent. Second, Google failed to differentiate it from Facebook. So, okay, at first, there are some points of differences. However, when Facebook tried to copy what Google+ was doing, Google+ partially lose its unique selling proposition. Case in point: Circles which shows who you are sharing contents with.
Adding insult to injury, more and more people who are resigning from Google are heading over to Facebook. In 2010, about 10% of Facebook’s workforce was actually ex-Googlers. Indeed, a brain drain on Google is a brain gain for Facebook. And that figures includes those who are working for Google Buzz and Google+.
3. Google+ Has Complex Design And Nomenclature
While it is seemingly a social network that clearly rivals Facebook, it is not intuitive at all for a social site. Its nomenclature is a clear differentiating factor, but even this arose the confusion of the users especially the first time users. For instance, while we may know what ‘Circles’ mean, we may be wary of what ‘Sparks’ is referring to. One more thing, Google+ offers no solid explanations of what these features and functions are really.
Eventually, the users abandon the site in favour of other easy to navigate platforms (i.e. Facebook and Twitter). Who needs another Facebook account anyway?
Another point to emphasize is it started as a Facebook wannabe, and now, it is becoming more like Pinterest or Instagram (or the combination of both). It tried to be all at the same time, forgetting its core in the process. There are too many features from sharing photos to video messaging to chatting, and most of which are difficult to navigate. As such, it is a social networking platform that has no niche whatsoever.
4. Google+ Lacked Popularity
Excruciatingly, the engagement rate decline of Google+ is 98% year-over-year. Based on Google’s stats, the platform has a total of 540 million monthly active users by the first quarter of 2014. However, the New York Times referred to Google+ as a ghost town wherein almost 270 million of its users no longer interacting with the platform and its features.
While some of its features such as the Hangouts were well-received by the users, its entirety was regarded as a bane than a boon. The mindset of the people behind Google+ is it’s always a feature away from other social platforms, so Google became heavy on improving the features. However, the more it improved the features, the shakier the foundation gets. In the end, there’d been a wide user backlash.
From this Google Trend visual you can see the initial excitement in 2011 which then fades down to almost nothing.
5. Google+ Was Not Even Supported Internally
Google became too pushy with its use; it’s either you use it, or you don’t receive a bonus. It was like that when Larry Page, Google’s CEO, published a company-wide memo telling the employees that the amount of bonus they’ll receive will depend on the success of its social initiatives. The CEO wanted the employees to advocate Google+ and its features to their family and friends otherwise, no bonuses will be extended to them.
We can only imagine the horror on the faces of them Googlers when they received the memo.
When it was launched, the company removed its current video conferencing system in favour of Google+, forcing employees to use the chat feature instead. However, one of Google’s employees described it as “janky,” which means inferior and weird. Other Google employees referred to it as ‘Facebook-like with a little Twitter.’ A Google executive also noted that there was nothing extraordinary with its – it is just another social platform. With all these, there was no buy-in then.
From the looks of it, Google is just salvaging what are salvageable in Google+, taking the best features and functions and transforming them into distinct Google products and services. For now, Google+ is just a name. In no time, however, it will be included in Google’s ever-lengthening list of failed social attempts and for valid reasons.
Perhaps, Google should know better now – any innovation that is founded on being threatened by other more established innovations will eventually meet its demise. Another important learning here is an ambitious attempt to dethrone a competitor is not necessary, what it needs is to grow organically.
Do you agree/disagree? Are you an avid Google+ user? Please feel free to vent it out in the comments.