Why’d You Go and Break My Heart, Google Plus?

12 Oct

I’m not supposed to take sides, I know. I can’t help it. I was pulling for  you, Google Plus.

I was pulling for you and you let me down.

It’s looking more and more like you’re never going to be a viable alternative to Facebook.Whether or not your traffic is actually down, it’s certainly not growing like it could be. Even worse than the numbers is the lived experience. The knock on Google Plus (or Google+, if you prefer) is it’s an echo chamber frequented only by tech geeks and social media groupies, and even they’re losing interest. “I don’t know anyone who uses it regularly, and since I’m in a hyper connected social media world, that doesn’t lead me to have very positive feelings about their long term viability,” says Buddy Media CEO Mike Lazerow.

That matches my observations. When I logged into Google Plus this morning, eight of the 10 newest posts in my stream were from Robert Scoble. I’ll be honest: I’m not even really sure who Robert Scoble is. Probably I should know, but that’s kind of the point: I’m not one-dimensional, but the Google Plus projection of my life is.

Listen, Facebook, it’s nothing personal. I like you a lot. I use you all the time, as I guess you know. I just created a new album of vacation pics the other day, and I’m loving Spotify on Facebook Platform. It rules. I want all that stuff. I just want it on Google.

The thing is, I’m lazy. I want all the good stuff a great social network gives you in the same place I have my email, my chat, my calendar, my documents, and so on. Is this giving one company too much power over my information? I don’t care. I’ll take it in exchange for the convenience. Facebook messaging is a pain in the ass, and don’t even get me started on people who think sending a DM on Twitter is an acceptable way for adults to communicate.

Also, I kind of prefer the Google aesthetic. Or maybe it’s an anti-aesthetic. Facebook is like a guy from “Queer Eye” who keeps loudly telling you howfabulous your life is going to be once you start taking all his advice. Google’s more like a quiet, thoughtful roommate who follows around after you, putting away your clutter exactly where you’d look for it and imperceptibly upgrading the decor and appliances. Don’t mind me, he says, I’m just making it so we never have to pay for long distance again.

I know Facebook had a big, big head start in social. But, Google, you were the one company that was supposed to be able to rival the network effect of 800 million users. Everyone I know is already on Google. Most of them are even on Google Plus now, too. They’re just not sharing anything. Just Robert Scoble.

I don’t even know what to tell you at this point. I guess you could do a bunch of Twitter-style outreach to celebrities and other “influencers” in the hopes that if they start using Google Plus, the masses will get on to see what they’re up to. But, frankly, I found it a little annoying when Twitter did it, and I still find it creepy and sad that otherwise normal people follow Lady Gaga or Ashton Kutcher. I suppose you could bug me and all my friends with a million prompts to share every time we try to check email or search something, but, again, that’s not your style.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe, all other things being equal, the hectoring “Queer Eye” dude is always going to throw a bigger, noisier party than the quiet roommate. Then again, maybe I’m just not giving you enough time, and there’s still a chance you’ll pull it off.

I sure hope that’s it. Somehow I doubt it.

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