Google+ was the center of attention this past week after Google 8 year employee and the “father” of Google+ Vic Gundotra announced his resignation. Immediately the rumor mill cranked up to full steam. TechCrunch in particular seems to have taken the most dire angle on the portent of his departure announcing that Google+ is now “The Walking Dead” and an equally dismal story by a writer who did a 3 month internship at Google in 2011 titled “A Personal Reflection On Google+”.
One thing that I think is interesting is that none of the articles I have seen discussing all the “failings” of Google and Google+ takes into account some obvious comparisons between the other social networks and Google that cast any negative light on Facebook or Twitter. Both of these other social networks have had their failures and rolled out features that no one uses. Facebook mail anyone?
Consider MySpace and its life cycle. It was extremely popular then became bloated with decorations, games and features that no one wanted and then crashed and has never recovered. It seems to me that Facebook has followed nearly an identical path and is now already past the peak of it’s popularity if not already beginning it’s own downward spiral. This graph of the search popularity of Facebook over time seems to lend credence to that hypothesis.
There is also the little matter of Facebook slowly limiting the organic reach of posts made by the owners of business or fan pages on the platform. This is obviously intended to force users to buy advertising on the platform in order to get the same exposure they used to get for free (with some hard work).
Twitter also jumped on the Google+ bandwagon with their recent re-design. You could say that Twitter profile pages look a lot like Google+ now. Coincidentally Facebook too has been making changes in appearance so you could just as easily say that Facebook now looks more like Google+ as well.
If Google+ is “walking dead” then the other social networks seem very eager to drink that same Kool-Aid.
In addition, no one mentions the #2 social network in the world; YouTube. YouTube has been a stunning success and has most of the same features as Facebook and more than Twitter so it is certainly a social network.
My own feelings about Google+ came somewhat late in its existence. I was several years late to it because I was already tired of Twitter and Facebook (in that order) and didn’t want yet another “social network” on my plate to further complicate my life. So I never gave it a chance.
I first really started to embrace Google+ when they integrated Google Places, and YouTube comments into Google+. At that point the platform came into my sphere of everyday consciousness because I work with businesses and entertainment projects doing local SEO and video marketing so both Google Places and Youtube are a big part of that.
My own view on the continued evolution of the Internet has been one where the large social platforms become less relevant and small, light apps become the new social. I am currently working within the early stages of two start ups that embody 1; this concept in social networking and 2; the need for quality content to satisfy the new SEO requirements for search engine ranking.
I think that Google+ is also a step in this direction. The best way that a large company like Google could evolve into the new Internet is by doing exactly what Google has done with Google+. It is a single login that allows you to take part in all of the many features that Google offers. It also allows you to use a few of them. Or, more importantly, only those features that you actually WANT to use. It doesn’t try to force everything it has into one platform which has always been a failing of social networks up until now.
If you see it from that perspective you realize that it is all of the other social networks which are trying to become Google (not the reverse) and also the reason why none of them ever can. Also, from that perspective Facebook is a distant third at best in Internet dominance. If you add up all of the platforms that Google+ connects a user to on the web and compare them with what Facebook or any other social network offers you soon see this to be true.
I think that Google+ was initially created as a social network offering but that it grew into something more. Something that is now outside the definition of a social network and is being hampered by the fact that public perception still equates the term Google+ with a social network platform like Facebook or Twitter.
Is YouTube Google+? No. How about Blogger? No. Google Search? No. Google Places? No. Google Maps? No. Gmail? No. Hangouts? No. Is it just a G+ profile page? No. yet it is all of these things and more. It is like energy, everything and nothing at the same time so comparing it to a mindless “walking dead” zombie is about as far from the reality of it as you can get.
Google+ will live on whether you believe in it or not. It represents the next evolution of the Internet and resists the best attempts to pigeonhole it into a single category. It it can easily adapt to new changes (such as a mobile focused web) because it is already there. For those who like a smaller, lighter web, it is there too. If it loses it’s distinction as being just another social network so much the better because that is not really what it is anyway.