Google has an overwhelming public persona as a company with the Midas touch. They make a search engine that beats Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Bing etc. hands down; so much so that the phrase ‘to Google something ‘ became synonymous with ‘search on the internet’. The Midas touch also stretched to acquisitions – Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. It seemed that Google might not ‘do no evil’, but for many net users the impression is that Google can ‘do no wrong’. It might, therefore, be a surprise to discover how many Google ideas and acquisitions actually fail. There is an impressive list of Google fails and the latest is Google +.
I personally only used Google + because it was attached to Google Authorship. I never wanted to tell Google who I was, but I, like most in the SEO business, realized that getting an enhanced search engine listing with picture made a website stand out from the competition, and thus made more money.
When you are the webmaster for numerous websites on various diverse topics you don’t want to put your name and face to them all. However, you can start a new Google account (which might involve borrowing a friend’s mobile phone) and create an identity in Google + that can be linked to an authorship meta tag to get an enhanced listing.
I only mention my experience of Google + because I think it must mirror lots of other people’s – they used the Google social network merely to get links and enhanced listings. They didn’t use it to post and comment on photos and memes. They didn’t use it to find long lost friends. They didn’t use it connect with friends of friends. Why would they? They have Facebook for that. Google + was used cynically, and obviously Google Inc. has studied the figures and the user interaction data to discover that people just aren’t that ‘social’ on Google +. What started out as Google taking the fight to Facebook is looking like it will end up on the scrap heap of failed Google businesses. There is an impressive list compiled by www.howstuffworks.com of past Google flops. I have re-arranged their list and included Google + and Google Authorship into my top 10 Google fails:
I might be jumping the gun but the effort that Google + has extracted from bloggers, developers and Google brain power is phenomenal. Possibly millions of widgets, aps and sharing buttons adopted Google + as a de facto big player in social interaction along with Facebook and Twitter. These will all have to be changed. My guess is that Instagram might be the swap for icons. Moreover, all the authorship tags on websites have already become redundant. These will all need deleting. Thankfully these changes can be done on a mass scale through management systems. Still a lot will remain like ghosts in the machine to remind us of passed over ideas.
Well it isn’t dead yet so I can’t proceed with a post-mortem. I can, however, give you my thoughts on the matter. Since Google guards the numbers regarding how many page views Google + posts or hangouts, profiles etc. got we will never know the truth about where it went wrong.
I suspect that Facebook was just too big and successful. Although Facebook shares are faltering and look really over-priced, it is number two in the search world – simply too big for Google to subsume.
From a user point-of-view, the Google+ page didn’t look as attractive or have the same enjoyable functionality and interaction potential. It might well have matched Facebook in many things such as sharing and messaging, but somehow it just felt clunky. In the same way that Yahoo.com seems clunky compared to Google search.
The essence of the internet, the idea behind it, is diversity: it is millions of computers all joined together in a network, most openly and a minority secretly through the darknet. The real world business model of getting bigger through aggressive take overs and attempts at ‘copies’, even with the power of branding, TV advertising and other promotional tactics, is flawed. The internet prefers niches; it shares power. Twitter could do it better and Wikipedia was a serious project that instantly won the credibility of the mass public and many in academia. The internet refuses to become synonymous with Google.
As a final thought, the Washington Post claims that it was never the intention of Google to challenge Facebook for dominance in the social arena. Rather it was a cynical exercise in collecting data about its users. The idea being that if you don’t buy the product you become the product.