Admitting you have made a mistake is never easy. More often than not, the time it takes for someone to admit fault can be more detrimental than the fault itself. Launched in June of 2011, Google+ has so far celebrated its seventh birthday unceremoniously.
In October, Alphabet announced the impending closure of Google+ in 2019, thus condemning the social network to join Microsoft’s Zune, HD DVD, and the Sega Dreamcast on the what-could-have-been Mount Rushmore of tech.
With the financial might of the Alphabet empire and almost omniscient reach of Google’s data pool, industry experts today are still confounded as to just how Alphabet got their social media wing so badly wrong. Buzz, Orkut, Google Health and Powermeter all came before, and met a similar fate by failing to move with the times and meet the demands on the modern consumer.
Failure to launch
In 1994 Richard Branson openly declared war on both Pepsi and Coca-Cola (so much as to drive an actual TANK through Times Square), but the battle was lost before it had even begun. The combined might of both cola giants gave Virgin Cola not even the slightest chance to steal their market share. When Google+ launched, there was no early-mover advantage. The social network had joined the fight just as the incumbent champion had begun to understand its true power.
Since Google+ launched, Facebook has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. If you were to ask a random person in the street if they like Facebook, chances are the response wouldn’t be positive. A string of data security concerns, complicit behaviour in far-right libertarianism, and Mark Zuckerberg’s outright refusal to come to the UK for parliamentary scrutiny has irreparably damaged their brand. Yet, millions of users continue to log-in to the platform daily, thumbs continue to scroll the homepage and the social network remains the most dominant.
Despite a rocky start, Google+ garnered a respectable market share. You may not be aware, but you might just use Google+ every day through Gmail, Docs or Drive. Most users, however, spurned the social features like photo livestream and didn’t mesh with the surprisingly intuitive content delivery system that harnessed many of the best features of Facebook, Reddit and Twitter.
Instead of continuing to press forth with aggressive advertising and thorough research and development, Alphabet seemed almost content with their market position. Facebook, on the other hand, continually evolved, innovated and adapted its service to provide a fresh and competitive service for its members. The speed at which Facebook acquired fellow tech giant Instagram and launched their own video to rival Youtube left Google+ lost in the world without a killer USP.
The not-so-social network
Google+, for all intents and purposes, was a very well-designed Facebook clone dressed up in Google branding. Members of the site could e-mail one another, like each other’s posts, join groups and organise events all in one space. Alphabet’s vision was to create an all-encompassing social network that smartly refined its core service and drove a greater user experience through data driven algorithms.
The problem with a vision as such is that consumers are not inspired by technical algorithms, nor are they quick to leave an existing provider when the competitor provides an almost identical service. To combat this lethargic will to switch networks, Google+ did launch a tool in 2011 that downloaded all of your Facebook information, and reuploaded the data to their network.
The problem here, pretty much sums up the vision of Google+, a vision that sounds great in a boardroom and but does not translate outside of those walls. Who in their right mind was going to stand up on a soapbox and attempt to organise their entire social network to make the switch to Google+? Probably somebody you’d think about unfriending.
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