Today, a post that is about Current Events and not something esoteric.
I’m not a professional expert on Social Networking, but I’ve generally been good at calling the tech industry. Here’s my latest prediction: Google+ isn’t going to be a thing that lasts.
“Wait, wait!” you cry. “Google+ is a Google product! It can’t possibly fail!” You are wrong, and Google Wave will back me up on this.
Disclaimer: the following only applies to English-Speaking countries.
The reasons Google+ will fail are actually quite simple, and are as follows:
1) People. Social networking pages only succeed if they can achieve a critical mass of users. People aren’t going to use a page that none of their friends are on. Facebook dominates the market right now, and everybody who wants to be socially networked is likely on Facebook already. Although Google+ has reached a userbase of 10 million in the short time it has existed, this is a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook’s 750 million. To make use of a social network worthwhile, a mass exodus from the current leader is required. What gives reason for such an exodus? That leads us to…
2) Killer apps. Google+ provides no real killer apps over the current market king that will serve to draw users in other than the initial novelty of it being a product produced by Google. When MySpace was the dominant force in Social Networking, Facebook lured users away with a few key differences that made them stand apart from the competition and were clearly visible to the most dunderheaded user.
MySpace allowed users nearly complete freedom to customize their homepages however they wanted, and as a result nearly every MySpace page was something that no person would ever want to look at: music that instantly played upon loading, Geocities-lite Web 1.0 flashing backgrounds, low-resolution animated GIFs, &c. Facebook took that control away, streamlining everything and making all pages identical and easy to use. Furthermore, they offered… Apps! The applications that one could use with Facebook were a novel idea, and MySpace had nothing of the sort.
Sadly, Google+ has nothing to truly set itself above Facebook in the same fashion. “Hangouts,” one of the more-hyped features, are simply multi-user videochats. Such a thing that has been possible for some time through commonly-used programs such as internet phone juggernaut Skype, and Google+’s version at time of writing is not what one would call secure: anybody who knows the URL can join a call. If one has a full range of Google products, such as an Android phone, a Gmail account, and more, Google+ integrates nicely with all of these, but is this something an average user will take advantage of? Are these things enough to lure a critical mass away from Facebook?
3) Time Commitment. As stated in point #1, everybody who wants to be on a social networking page is already on Facebook. They have already made a substantial time investment into Facebook: thousands of photographs have been uploaded, videos have been shared, and comments posted and “liked”. It is a daunting task to re-establish this amount of work on a new page, especially when it offers nothing amazing over what one has now.
I could go over the controversies that have already begin to plague Google+, such as requiring one’s real name and gender at sign-up, but as Facebook has had its own share of scandal I feel this is rather unnecessary to go into in detail. I might also warn everybody of the dangers of allowing Google to control as much information as we have allowed them to, but Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia already has written a stellar book detailing the subject in greater depth and with more expertise than I could hope to do here.
Perhaps I’m wrong, and Google+ will grow to dominate the social networking scene, but I don’t see it happening. For now, let’s just sit back and hold off on the Google+ victory speeches, shall we?