Is Google+ Dead?

Google+ Sign In PageSlate 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 absenceEric 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.

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6 Responses to “Is Google+ Dead?”

  1. hardin

    The Slate article that inspired this post did a good job of comparing the different between a social network and a conventional web application as well:

    But a social network isn’t a product; it’s a place. Like a bar or a club, a social network needs a critical mass of people to be successful—the more people it attracts, the more people it attracts. Google couldn’t have possibly built every one of Facebook’s features into its new service when it launched, but to make up for its deficits, it ought to have let users experiment more freely with the site. That freewheeling attitude is precisely how Twitter—the only other social network to successfully take on Facebook in the last few years—got so big. When Twitter users invented ways to reply to one another or echo other people’s tweets, the service didn’t stop them—it embraced and extended their creativity. This attitude marked Twitter as a place whose hosts appreciated its users, and that attitude—and all the fun people were having—pushed people to stick with the site despite its many flaws (Twitter’s frequent downtime, for example). Google+, by contrast, never managed to translate its initial surge into lasting enthusiasm. And for that reason, it’s surely doomed.

    Reply
  2. Nyagoslav

    If I was getting 1 cent every time I heard”Google+ is Dead” I was going to be a billionaire :) No, it’s not dead. It’s just getting started.

    Reply
    • hardin

      I appreciate the reply, Nyagoslav. Are you an active Google+ user? I’d be interested in your impression on the actual active community on Google+ versus the people that just created accounts when it launched and abandoned them (which seems to comprise most of my friends on Google+). Do you see a pretty active user base?

      Reply
  3. Aaron Heinen

    For me the biggest reason I never saw google+ taking off was pretty simple, they were reinventing the wheel. Their biggest selling point is you can group users into circles and share content with selected circles, yet that doesn’t appeal to me. I can see this working for higher education, peer-to-peer online universities, with classes, programs and hierarchy, but not as an individual social network. Generally when I share content I want EVERYONE I’m friends with to see. I don’t want to go through the trouble of curating content for selected people, rather I see facebook as a type of blog account in which everything IS public. The security issues never concerned me because I’m not revealing anything I wouldn’t want to reveal. There are other forms of communication and I do not pity people that are in an uproar about facebook saving their pictures / message history, etc. What does bother me is a post about how every picture you put on LinkedIN can be sold to 3rd party ads without your discretion. There was an article about how someone saw their LinkedIN profile picture on a billboard for some e-commerce site. That seems like a South Park episode waiting to happen…

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    • Denis

      Up until recently the fine print for Facebook also included that everything you post (images, statuses, notes, comments) was the property of Facebook to do with as they pleased. I don’t know if it is still there and I couldn’t find it or if they removed that.

      Reply
    • hardin

      To your point Aaron about circles, I think that in addition to them only being useful to some people, it only took Facebook a couple of months to co-opt the feature making it sort of moot. That’s the problem with trying to compete with Facebook, it’s very easy for them to roll whatever good ideas do come up into their product, and its very difficult to defend those features as original (or patentable) IP to prevent them from doing it.

      Reply

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