Let’s all take a quick moment to appreciate the passing of our (beloved?) Google+. It only feels like yesterday that we were adding family members and friends to “circles” – but alas, Google have this week, finally pulled the plug on their go at a social media network: Google+. But with all of the tools and reach in place to make something like this so successful, what went wrong and why did it fail so spectacularly?
What is Google+ anyway?
Launched in 2011, Google+ was actually the Search Engine giant’s 4th attempt a social media network, jostling for position with Facebook and Twitter. However, unfortunately the platform failed to win people over and Google even tried to force it onto the YouTube community. Google initially tried to create an air of exclusivity around the platform by going down the “invite-only” route, hoping that this obscurity would deliver an appetite. People already expected it to be good: It was Google afterall. It was then opened up to the public later on in 2011.
Google described it’s new enterprise as “a social layer” to all of it’s different services such as YouTube, Gmail and Maps. It allowed users to sort out their connections into “circles” with the ability to video call each other all at once. They originally boasted that millions of people had activated accounts within just a few weeks of the platform becoming open to the public. But the issue was, there was a huge drop off in repeat users and this is what inevitably killed off Google’s answer to Facebook; albeit 8 years later.
Some are asking why now? It’s simple; a data breach was the final nail in the G+ coffin.
What in particular went wrong? Matt Navarra, a social media consultant explained:
“Google+ was destined to fail from day one,” says Matt Navarra, a social media consultant.
“Issues with an unwieldy and changeable UI [user interface], being the latecomer versus giants like Facebook, a disjointed user experience, and rumours of internal disagreements about how Google+ would be leveraged” were all paramount in the downfall he explained.
Another issue that they had was their stance on people using Psuedonyms – this just wasn’t allowed. They even went to the extent of removing and deleting business or brand profiles because they weren’t “real names”. This was later admitted as a big mistake and reverted their decision; allowing businesses to setup profiles but by this point the damage was already done. The result of all of this confusion was when people did actually use the platform, it was often confused and messy as to what it was you were supposed to actually do with it.
No one is “Plus One’ing” anything – doesn’t quite roll of the tongue like “Liking and Favouriting” did; the social counter systems held by the big competitors; Facebook and Twitter respectively.
Competing with the big players
At this time, Facebook had 750 million active users; Twitter 100 million which were worlds apart from the artificially active Google+ accounts. Google moved to force people who wanted to comment on YouTube videos or leave a review on the Google Play store to have a Google+ account and this sparked fury from the communities; claiming that Google were using their success to make it look like the platform had followers. This activity was then broadcast across people’s accounts automatically but was all artificial.
The founder of Google+, Vic Gundotra, left the company in April 2014 and changes swiftly came. This including an attempt at disentangling Google+ from other apps such as YouTube and the Play Store. They then tried to make the most of communities but this also failed. The final straw was a data breach where bugs in the software meant that the information of up to 52 million members had been accessible by third-party developers.
And alas, as of today; Google+ is no more.
Google are always keen to remember their failed experiments on the Google Cemetery website, to showcase that even the giant fails sometimes – the message being that you should always keep finding new solutions and new ways of doing things.
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