A lot of the hype on Google+ is on what does it bring new to the market;
- For the people who want to use a general network, there is already Facebook; in there there are photos, texts, links, friends, locations, pretty much everything you wish;
- For people who want to chat and do quick posts, there is Twitter; links, small talks, links, small talks; in Romania, we have Cirip;
- Business people focus on LinkedIn;
- For special content, there are special networks:
- For niche fields, there are dedicated communities (gardening, pets, decorating a house);
- For local businesses / people, there are local networks – in Romania Trilulilu, Neogen;
Where’s Google? Google wants the “general” niche – fighting with Facebook, at some level MySpace (in big decline) and local networks (in Romania, Neogen, for example; Hi5 is also popular in Romania);
- When they used Google Buzz, they said “Uuu, we’ll help you integrate Buzz with Twitter”; this pretty much killed the only need to visit Google Buzz; I made the accounts connect one to the other, and only used Twitter; Buzz was dead instantly for me; Google+ no longer lets you integrate with other networks;
- Buzz also failed in bringing me news about stuff – when people added me on their network, I didn’t know; on Google+, you know instantly as you use a Google service – “Hey, there’s a person who added you on their circles”; you also know when your posts get +1; so, Google learned from this mistake and made me pay attention;
- They copied Facebook to the extreme – when I post a link, it gets the same image from the web site I link to (the thumbnail generation for the time I post something on my wall); the way the wall works, the photos system, the +1 system, the “comment on this post” system, the “Share this post only with …” system – they’re all also on Facebook; I think that this is kind of nice – the user can’t complain “Hmm, I don’t have this function”; actually, you do! Maybe it’s 100% copied from Facebook, but, hey!, you have it;
- Google Wave was innovation; so much innovation, that users went “Huh?”; the market was not ready for the new wave; on the contrast, Google+ brings almost nothing new (I’ll mention the circles below); it’s mostly Facebook +1; OK, not bad;
- Everything is integrated, but not obnoxious; I posted a video, it’s played by YouTube, but it’s not on my YouTube channel; I can see the Google Chat integration, but Google Chat is added to Google+, instead of having my Google+ take over my Google Chat; Picasa integration is very cool – you can have an unlimited number of photos below 2048×2048 pixels, which is very high; details;
- When I log in to Google+, it’s on https:// protocol, which makes it safer;
- I like the “5.000 friends” limit of Google Plus; it’s not as necessary as on Facebook (in Google Plus, one can follow you and you don’t have to follow him back, he can read your status updates; in Facebook, if someone wants to read your status updates, he/she has to add you as friend);
Now the answer to the question in the title:
What should Google+ have in order to become “the” social network?
In my opinion, the success or failure of Google+, of Google Buzz, of Google Wave, of MySpace, of Hi5, of Facebook and of any network, is not on the technical things; it’s never about that; everything is about the users:
- I don’t use Hi5 in Romania, since a lot of the people in that network don’t share my values;
- I do use Yahoo! Messenger, despite their lack of technical abilities, because everybody in Romania uses it;
- I rarely use Xing, a popular business network in Germany; on the other hand, I do use LinkedIn, which is popular for business people in Romania;
- I don’t have too many friends on MySpace, so I tend not to use it;
- Very few people use Google Chat outside Gmail, so I don’t use it;
- Flickr has a lot of users, but they don’t represent me; on Google Picasa I can put up to 1 GB of photos; thus, I use Google Picasa for a simple reason – enough space; I’d focus on Flickr, if a lot of people I knew where in there;
Do you see the pattern? It’s great to have technical abilities; I mean, Google Chat is better than Skype, Skype is better than Yahoo! Messenger; on the other hand, since the user distribution is exactly the opposite, everyone in Romania uses Yahoo! Messenger, few use Skype, and close to no one uses Google Chat;
Now Google comes and claims to bring circles into people’s lives; OK, that’s fine; I can have similar functionalities in Facebook, but let’s give them this – they’re the first to implement this at this level; OK, so what? To succeed you need the people.
The current situation of Google+ is like the joke with the brothel, where there are a lot of rooms, in which the girls are classified by all kinds of physical appearances (hair color, eye color, breast size, height), but there are no prostitutes; to the complaint of a customer: “Hey, but there are no girls”, the answer comes: “Yes, but what do you say about our organizing?”.
Bottom line: I don’t know the future (shock in the room!); I don’t know if Facebook or Google will be “the” social network in 2020; or another one (more shock!); but, in my opinion, what counts in deciding the user is the user base; that’s it; nothing fancy.
Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues: IMRo. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org and reply to the confirmation email.