Someday Google is going to take over the world (if Facebook doesn’t get to it first) and there’s going to be nothing we can do about it. We’ll drive Google Camrys, eat at McGoogles or T.G.I. Googles, and “How I Met Your Mother Using the ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ Feature” will be must-see TV. For now though, Google has some work to do, namely on its social service, Google+.
When the beta version was launched last summer, Google+ enjoyed moderate success; users flocked to the site to see what the buzz (no pun intended) was all about. The demand was so great, that the day after the site began offering invites, Google+ temporarily halted any new users from joining up. Overall, the critical reception wasn’t great, but, being Google’s fourth venture into social media, everyone wanted to see if this was going to be the megacorporation’s golden goose. Now, almost a year later, G+ finds itself struggling to make an impact.
The Hangout feature (which is pretty much Skype on steroids) was Google Plus’s calling card, as was the ability to put your friends into preset “Circles,” where you control what information each group sees. It didn’t take long for Facebook to crash the party; Facebook now offers a video chat service – though you can only have one-on-one conversations, not with up to ten people like on G+ – and the new privacy settings allow you to control who can and can’t see your updates. Call it shameful on Facebook’s part but, ultimately, they leveled the playing field perfectly upon seeing the threat. Now, Google+ has no real identity other than it’s connection with the Silicon Valley giant.
Today, Google+ revamped its site, but no one other than its regular users really noticed. The only way to know anything changed was to actually go to the website to watch the announcements. The lack of public buildup to this redesign prevents anyone outside the Google+ community from being aware of the site, which is a problem that’s plagued the network from day one. Another problem is that there is nothing special about it. I was an avid Google+ user for about six weeks, but slowly, I stopped checking the site; instead of every couple of days, I’d update my profile every couple of weeks, then months, then never. When people lost interest in the Hangout feature, that was it: I was essentially done with G+. It’s no better (in fact, I think it’s worse) than Facebook or Twitter, and the fact that Google’s network is now a ghost town renders it useless as a social service. I’ll give you a small sample of how much it’s fallen off from my point of view: when I started on Google+, I had more than 85 connections within the first month, mainly friends from school. Today, I can count on one hand the number of people who regularly use the social network.
Everyone has gone back to Facebook and Twitter because Google+ offers nothing new, no matter how many times they tell you that their “Stream” is unique and not just a glorified News Feed. Google is a little late in joining the social networking party, so they’re going to have to do something groundbreaking if they want to stand out from the crowd. They also need an identity; is Google+ a way to stay in touch with old friends? Share stories? Promote your business? Or is it none of those? Without a specific identity, Google+ is nothing more than a store-brand version of Facebook.
What do you think? Is Google+ doomed? If not, what can they do to (if anything) to stand out from the crowd?
UPDATE (8:15 p.m.)