You know what’s worse than people talking about how no one is using Google+? No one talking about how no one is using Google+.
It was June 28th that Google+ rolled out for the first few lucky beta users who proceeded to gleefully show-off the coveted accounts to all their friends. The next day, the first users were allowed to begin inviting friends, and those friends invited their friends and so it began. To credit Google the friends-inviting-friends method (also used to launch Google Wave) for new accounts is brilliant. It ensures loyalty of early-adopters and generated huge buzz as everyone tried to snag a new account. And thus began the inevitable months of adding friends, creating circles (family, friends, co-workers), adding more friends and creating more circles (acquaintances, bad neighbors, people I dated). But circles can only keep you interested for so long.
It would seem that one of Google’s goals was to minimize the overwhelming monopoly Facebook has on our Internet time. In of August of 2010, Facebook overtook Google in “time spent” on the Internet and its popularity has continued to grow: now one in every eight minutes spent online is spent on Facebook. Perhaps Google should consider slowing down their searches; what else can a giant multinational corporation to do?
Google is fabulous at providing us with the things we need, often before we need them. It’s possible we really need an alternative to Facebook, we just don’t know it yet. Facebook has done a good job of pushing its constituents away by limiting privacy options and occasionally publishing our phone numbers without warning; there’s every possibility that someday there will be a mass exodus when Facebook goes a step too far and starts choosing our friends for us. Until then, however, the only people who seem to be inhabiting Google+ are the lonely few who truly hate Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg, or who honestly love Google and its own intensive stalking tendencies.
So what’s next? Google needs to do what Facebook is doing brilliantly: incorporate the rest of the Internet into the site. Facebook spent much of last week reeling off an extremely impressive list of partners: Spotify, Hulu, DirecTV, IMDB and many more. Google+ has a lot of potential to integrate with email and calendaring and maybe even plug into some great apps out of the Google Marketplace but for now that development seems to be low-key and major partners scarce.
In many ways it’s shocking that Google wasn’t prepared to drive its users from Mail, Calendar, Document and Search service back to Google+ with a little more finesse. Once the intrigue of the limited launch was over and users had their accounts they realized they had to do their Facebooking twice. There was a brief window of complaining about the duplication of effort but now it seems we’ve moved on to complaining about last week’s changes to Facebook – and you better believe Mark Zuckerburg doesn’t mind that topic change at all. Google better start thinking strategies and they shouldn’t expect to get an easy one-up on the (obsessively) dedicated Zuckerberg. If they’re not careful Google+ will wind up going the way of the (beloved) ahead-of-its-time Wave and then where will they be? Oh yeah, back to ruling the rest of the world.