Google is brilliant. They made the best search engine. They made the best email app with Gmail. They made the world’s most popular operating system in Android. And they have plenty of other successful products.
But Google just doesn’t know how to get into social media. The latest Google+ debacle proves it.
Is Google+ Dying? It Seems So
On Monday, Google announced that Google+ will be delinked from YouTube comments, not even two years after making Google+ mandatory for posting on YouTube. The “Googleplusification” of all its products was annoying, and we’re glad to see this requirement going away.
This move comes on the heels of delinking Google+ Photos from your images and launching the new Google Photos app. And just last month, Google+ brand posts were removed from Google’s Knowledge Graph. Meanwhile, Twitter made its way into Google Search results after years of Plus-prompted absence.
Along with the delinking from YouTube, Google+ will also delink the Locations feature to track your whereabouts and put it into Hangouts, its awesome chat and messaging app. This is a small change though, and an understandable one since Hangouts has to compete with the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which already have this feature. In everyday usage, your battery life and privacy will be attacked just as it was earlier, only this time it will be a different app doing it.
“We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google… other than using Google+ itself,” said Bradley Horowitz, VP, Photos and Streams at Google.
Mashable’s Christina Warren was ready to sound the death knoll for Google+. In her post, she said that as someone who has seen several communities die slowly, this is the end of important new features, bug fixes will be fewer and slower, and the Google+ brand will gradually retire.
“It’s over guys. You can either accept reality now or continue to use a service that, thanks to its official de-coupling – is now seen as truly non-essential to Google. Google will let it exist for only so long, but at a certain point, they will retire it. Google Reader died. This will too,” she wrote.
How People Reacted
Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer of social media data firm 4C Insights, told The Wall Street Journal that this was a failure of Google’s attempt to muscle its way into becoming a social media giant.
Existing Google+ users don’t seem pleased with the new change either, with some complaining that Google can’t make up its mind about their own social network, while others claim the company doesn’t listen to its loyal users.
On the post announcing the change, user Clare Cosgrove commented, “Google+ has continued to make changes that users didn’t want, ruin things that users are happy with, integrating products that didn’t need to be integrated… There used to be a time when I would sing the praises of Google+ and sell it to people, and now I just find myself feeling helpless and at a loss at how horribly wrong it has all gone. (I still) do not understand why Google continues to blatantly ignore what its users are telling them.”
Google is mistaken in thinking that social is just about making the best product. As we found in our extensive Google+ vs. Facebook shootout, Google+ is better than Facebook in most ways. But Facebook is where the people are, and as our reviewer Yaara pointed out, “if you truly want to stay updated and have an audience, you will understandably stick to Facebook.”
All of this points to one thing: Google has no idea how to make it in the world of social media. And history bears witness through some of Google’s greatest social flops.
Google Wave was Ahead of Its Time
Google Wave sought to reinvent email and change the world, but it lasted just a little more than a year. Announced in May 2009 in beta and released to the public in May 2010, it stopped development in August 2011, and removed all traces in April 2012. Three years was all Google gave its most ambitious attempt at social. You’ll find several Google Wave fans even today, with some (including this author) arguing that it was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Google Wave was less of a social network and more of a project management system, but Google never realized that.
Dodgeball, Google’s Greatest Mistake
Dodgeball was one of Google’s biggest mistakes. The app was focussed on location-based social networking. While not made in-house, Google acquired this five-year-old company back in 2005 and then did nothing with it for years. Frustrated with Google, Dodgeball’s co-founder Dennis Crowley quit and went on to develop—you guessed it—FourSquare, the king of check-in tools. Google then tried to make up for their mistakes with Google Latitude, which was pretty useful, but later shut that down too.
A Virtual Avatar with Lively
Second Life is the biggest social network of virtual avatars and Google wanted a piece of that pie. In July 2008, Google launched Lively to give users the chance to create a virtual representation of themselves and hang out with friends in a virtual world. In December 2008, Google shut Lively. Six months. Yup. Well, at least you can still get started with Second Life, which has over a million active users at last count.
The Twitter Competitor, Google Buzz
In February 2010, Google tried to take on Twitter with its own microblogging tool Google Buzz, going to the extent of integrating it into Gmail. That proved to be a big mistake though. Google would tell Search Engine Land that it “failed to fully appreciate the wide range of differing privacy expectations that Buzz (within Gmail) would confront at launch.” Buzz never took off, and was finally discontinued in December 2011.
Orkut was Big… in Brazil
Last year, Google finally announced it was shutting down Orkut. In case you didn’t know, Orkut was one of the biggest social networks in the world and a rival to Facebook, enjoying an especially big user base in Brazil and India. In fact, Orkut was the only Google-made social network to actually become so big. Forbes says that in July 2009, Orkut had more than 27 million users in Brazil while Facebook had only 4.2 million. Today, Orkut doesn’t exist. Good job, Google. This one tweet sums it up:
We really haven’t talked about the fact that Orkut is literally google’s most successful attempt at social networking. Yikes!
— Overrated Outcast (@over_rated) July 1, 2014
Do You Actively Use Google+? Will You Continue To?
Almost every Google user has a Google+ account, but we want to know if you actively use it—posting updates, checking what friends are saying, and so on. More importantly, after the recent signs that Google+ is being separated from the core Google experience, will you continue using it over alternatives like Facebook and Twitter? Why?