The launch of Google+ has been called everything from revolutionary to “yawn” to embarrassing; some argue that the service could finally be Google’s social success while others advise they should just stick to what they’re good at.
The social web had been largely static over recent months with Facebook continuing the quest for web domination (now with nearly 700 million members) and Twitter eating in to its own ecosystem in order to realise its potential and become a truly self-sufficient, cash flow positive company. You know things have been less than interesting when tech bloggers are hailing turntable.fm as the most exciting thing in social.
Do we really need another way to share photos? Probably not – Facebook and Instagram have pretty much got that covered. Do we need another place to share our status updates with an unsuspecting world? Not really, Twitter is the daddy here.
We have ways of sharing whatever we want with whoever we want. We have Facebook groups and Twitter lists so why do we need Google+ and why has it got tech bloggers devoting hundreds of virtual column inches to a service that is incomplete, currently invite only and that only a few have actually seen and can use?
In the past we have had the likes of Pownce and Plurk attempt to challenge Twitter in the status update arena but, despite being (at the time) feature superior, they could not sufficiently differentiate themselves and not persuade users to go through the agony of migrating their social circles to another platform even when times were bad at Twitter. We never got away from feeling that they were small upstarts and did not have the confidence that they could scale effectively.
We now have a new breed of social services such as Quora but these mainly serve a specific niche and will not threaten the social status quo.
We therefore need a company with sufficient weight to throw behind a product to give it the gravitas it demands to be seen as a major player.
Microsoft is no longer the force it once was and is often struggling to remain relevant in areas where it was previously a world leader in a world that has largely outgrown it.
So, that leaves just Google.
The obvious question being asked is why Google+ should succeed whilst the likes of Wave and Buzz have fallen flat or been cancelled. With ‘plus’ Google seems to have taken the good bits from its past “failures” and combined them into one cohesive offering.
As I have been advocating for some time, in order for Google to succeed in the social sphere, there needs to be a defined destination unlike search which is designed to send us elsewhere. Plus appears to be addressing this.
The sales pitch
Regardless of whether Google+ is innovative or just another copycat network the biggest challenge is convincing the end-user that this is a service they will want to use – a daunting prospect.
Plus is being sold on the basis that it is sharing “done correctly” with Circles forming the core of this argument. It remains to be seen if the public at large wants to move beyond those Facebook groups and Twitter lists and to embrace the group based “relevance” that Google+ offers.
I don’t believe that Plus is, or is even intended to be, a Facebook killer. It will, instead, coexist with Facebook and provide an alternative: a different ethos for those who may be disillusioned with existing services. It may even succeed because it is simply “not Facebook“.
The two things Google must give Plus are adequate promotion and time. Previous offerings from the search giant have gone largely unnoticed by the general public and Google cannot afford to make the same mistake here. Plus is also not going to achieve Facebook-esque figures overnight, in 6 months or even a year. Google and, perhaps more importantly, the tech press must allow the service to develop, improve and grow organically before announcing it a failure.
We need a service such as Google+ to keep the likes of Facebook and Twitter honest and drive the need for continued innovation on the social web. We must, therefore, afford it the opportunity to fulfill its potential.