Slate published an interesting article eagerly proclaiming the death of Google+ stating, “the search behemoth might not realize it yet, but its chance to compete with Facebook has come and gone.” One of Google’s very successful services has been Google Places, and so it seemed to make sense that there would be a natural synergy between businesses who used Google Places and the creation of brand pages, which are a staple of Facebook. Slates notes:
Google seemed completely surprised by this turn of events. A product manager posted a message discouraging businesses from creating Google+ profiles, and the company began shutting down the profiles posted by renegade firms. This prompted many creative workarounds—TechCrunch jokingly created a page for a fellow named Techathew Cruncherin—but Google was unmoved. (Cruncherin’s profile was shut down.) The episode illustrated a persistent and likely fatal problem for Google’s effort to take on Facebook: There’s nothing to do on Google+, and every time someone figures out a possible use for it, Google turns out the lights.
Google+ generated a lot of hype by building up a user base of 40 million or so users very quickly, but at the end of the day students of calculus know that when analyzing the growth of a product it’s important to look at not just the first derivative but also the second derivative, i.e. the rate at which the growth is changing. Google+’s membership count seems to have a positive first derivative but a negative second derivative, meaning that it already experienced peak growth and is beginning to level off. 40 million users is way to early for such a high profile site’s membership growth rate to have peaked, and seems to indicate that the Google+ community is destined to become a ghost town. Slate agrees with this:
The real test of Google’s social network is what people do after they join. As far as anyone can tell, they aren’t doing a whole lot. Traffic-analysis firms have consistently reported Google+’s traffic to be declining from its early peak. Even Google’s own executives seem to have gotten bored by the site. After several public posts in the summer, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin dropped off the site in the fall; they only started posting once more when bloggers began pointing out their absence. Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO, posted his first public message when Steve Jobs died. That was three months after the social network went live.
Google+ has seemed from the beginning to be a very Microsoft-esque mistimed product, too late to a party already dominated by Facebook. While Google+ seemed to have some innovative concepts when it first launched, it only took Facebook a few months to incorporate all of them into its much more polished product which, by the way, has a few more users. While it will be interesting to see how much effort Google continues to put into pushing Google+, it seems like the writing is on the wall for its plug to be pulled.