Google + (-Me)

As the title states, I won’t be joining Google’s new social network any time soon. I wasn’t even going to post about it, until I started to get people asking me about it. I have two problems with Google +:

  1. It’s made by Google.
  2. I don’t trust Google.

That is: I don’t trust Google with my private info, unless the offering is so compelling that it would be detrimental to me to not use their offering. (That’s why I use Google Reader and Google Analytics, but not Gmail.)

Dave Winer on Google +:

Products like the one Google just announced are hatched at off-sites at resorts near Monterey or in the Sierra, and were designed to meet the needs of the corporation that created it. A huge scared angry corporation.

If you don’t believe what Winer is saying, then take this passage from Steven Levy, writing for Wired.com:

And after Page formally took the CEO title, he reportedly mandated that 25 percent of the annual bonus check for all Google employees would be dependent on how well the company does in its social efforts.

They didn’t create Google + because they thought they could do social better, they created it because they need to be in the social game and to be in the social game, they must do it better.

I am not saying that Google + is bad, but I can tell you that it will be an uphill battle for it to succeed, it must not only beat out Facebook, but Twitter too. I fear though that it will suffer the same fate of Google Wave after reading this:

Coordinating with friends and family in real-time is really hard in real life. After all, everyone’s on different schedules, in different places, and plans can change at any moment. Phone calls and text messages can work in a pinch, but they’re not quite right for getting the gang together. So Google+ includes Huddle, a group messaging experience that lets everyone inside the circle know what’s going on, right this second.

That sounds killer, but it doesn’t work unless your entire family is on the “+” and that they actually use “+”.

Earlier today I posted this quote from Tom Coates:

Fundamentally, Google is a utility. No one wants to hang out at their power company.

What I think Coates is saying here, and the way that I read it, is that Google is a dumb pipe, not a hip club. Facebook and Twitter are hip clubs, not Google.

How do you become a hip club?

From everything I read Google has done one major thing right — they made the tool easy to use, MG Siegler:

Overall, it took me about 15 minutes to get fairly comfortable with all the major elements of the Google+ system. That’s good, especially given how much you can do. At first, it seemed a bit overwhelming, but the concepts are actually pretty easy to learn once you experiment and understand how things work.

That was not the case with Google Wave, which I never really figured out. It is also likely a problem for new Facebook users, and is a huge problem for new Twitter users.

Twitter suffers from ambiguity — it is only what you make of it. Facebook suffers from confusion from feature creep: what does it mean to be a fan, what do all these privacy toggles mean, what is right?

Google wins by eliminating these problems.

In the End

At the end of the day I just don’t see this being the savor that Google is looking for, it’s the Motorola Droid to Apple’s iPhone. A good, solid offering, but it’s not an iPhone.

Dave Winer in a follow-up post to his passage above:

Forget about dipping your big toe in to get a sense of the temperature. These are the advantages of the upstart, when they’re starting. People have responded to yesterday’s piece by saying basically that Facebook can’t rip up the pavement any more than Google can. True. But their innovation is done. Now they’re reaping the rewards.

This is exactly what we are seeing now with iPad competitors, they are dipping their toes in the water — they aren’t feature complete. They are a competitor to last years iPad, not this years.

This is what Google + feels like, a competitor to social networks of last year, not now. Twitter isn’t my only social network, Instagram is another that I use, ditto Gowalla.

Google + could be around for ages, but I doubt it will ever gain the traction it needs to be a true force in social. Even if it does, will it ever become compelling enough for a guy like me?

Doubtful.

Originally posted for members on: June 29, 2011
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