It opened its beta testing doors to great fanfare in June of last year, and it immediately became the “in-place” to be, online. All the cool kids were there, King Robert Scoble was holding court to a captivated audience as usual, and everyone was willing to sell their grandmother for an invitation. Your online reputation was being judged by your presence there (or lack thereof). Users ooohed and aaahed over the various features on offer including Hangouts and Circles.
Everyone speculated wildly that this would be the deciding deadly weapon to finish off the wild beast that roamed the Interwebs, called Facebook. After all, it had a monumental new idea called Circles which was the atom bomb of social networks! A seismic shift in online social power was being invisioned with everyone flocking to this new place, while the vanquished Facebook smouldered in the burning ruins of its once mighty global empire.
Yes, this was Google Plus, socializing online and being delusional like it was 2011.
Fast forward to 2012. The initial “Facebook is dead!” celebrations are over. The bunting and balloons are fluttering pathetically in the wind. The ravenous Facebook monster continues its wild Interwebs rampage unchecked. All of the cool kids have more or less lost interest in Google Plus and gone off on another quest to find the Internet’s “Next Big Thing”.
So where does this leave Google Plus? Does it have a future? Or is it something which is essentially dead on arrival but Google insists on being in denial, constantly giving Plus CPR, hoping it will revive and come bouncing back?
Here are the arguments for and against Plus’s future survival :
FOR : your Google search results will be influenced by your Plus activity – if you are a blogger, writer, or someone who relies on SEO in order to stay at the top of Google search results, then an active Plus presence is almost required. At the very least, you should have a completed profile, with links to your online work. Increasingly, your visibility on Google is determined by your Plus activity. Blog posts won’t be linked to you as your own unless you claim ownership of the site in your Plus profile. The more sites and pages you claim ownership of, the more you will receive credit for (along with a picture of you next to the blog post). This is great for your online exposure and marks you down as a serious online writer / blogger / marketer.
AGAINST: many people are simply getting bored and walking away – there seems to be a syndrome on the Internet where people get hysterically excited about a new site, stay on it for a while and rave to everyone about how they should come join too. Then the drugs eventually wear off, they come down off their high, and they move onto the Next Big Thing, leaving said website a ghost town. This, I believe, is what is happening to Google Plus. Facebook is becoming stronger, everyone’s friends and family are on Facebook, and Google has been unable so far to persuade people that Google Plus is much better.
Games? Sorry, Facebook got there first. Circles? Sorry, Facebook already allows users to add their friends into special lists. Photo syncing? Sorry, Facebook does that now. Hangouts is really the only main feature that anyone will stick around for. But it is currently buggy as hell and constantly drops people who are trying to chat.
FOR: Google is adding lots of goodies to Plus – although some of the ideas are not exactly unique in nature, they are still quite nice to have around, and seeing Google actively working on Plus, it shows they have no intention of winding down the feature anytime soon. The latest one is Communities, which allows users to create a free community, based on their interests. So check out the Star Wars community, the official Google Plus community, and the Android community to name but three.
But the problem of spam and inappropriate material is already surfacing in Communities. Porn-type communities are prominent and there seems to be no way (yet) to effectively combat the spam issue.
AGAINST: Facebook is just too powerful to overcome and Twitter is also gaining a foothold – when Plus first launched, people wondered aloud if this was the “Facebook killer” everyone had been waiting for. It’s rather amusing and ironic how everyone prays for something to come along and kill a site which everyone is on, likes, and is using. That’s like wiring your house to explode and then locking yourself in the bathroom. Why do people, secretly deep down, wish ill on a website that they obviously like using? Is it what the Germans call “schadenfreude“? The delight in seeing someone or something suffer?
Anyway, whatever it is, it isn’t going to happen. I have a $50 bet with a friend that Facebook will be gone within 2 years ( I bet it will stay, while she bet the opposite) and I am very confident I will win that bet. Facebook is so embedded into the structure, fabric and mindset of the Internet that it is impossible to dislodge it. Everyone and their grandmother are on Facebook. Everyone’s photos, videos, status updates and lists are on Facebook. No-one has the time, energy and inclination to start again on another social network. They are more likely to stay put on Facebook. And Facebook knows that, which is why Mark Z isn’t losing any sleep over what Google is offering.
FOR: Google is now basing their entire user interface and other products around Plus – if you use Gmail, you will see that you can now add email contacts directly to your Plus circles. If you want to share a YouTube video, you can embed it directly on Plus with the click of a button. In Google Reader, a couple of clicks adds a post to Plus. The design and feel of all Google products are being changed to match Plus so everything looks integrated. Google is obviously hoping that this will entice people into Plus and make it easier for them to start using the service. And it might – to a point. But not enough to cause a mass exodus from other social networks and turn Plus around (in my opinion).
So now it’s time for your opinions. Do you think Google Plus is terminally ill? Do you think Google should turn off the life support machine? Or do you take the opposite view that Google Plus is ticking along quite nicely thank you very much? Let us know what side you come down on in the comments below.