I saw something today that pretty much points out everything that’s wrong with Google Plus, and shows just why it’s never going to be popular outside the world of those early adopters that think it’s the greatest thing in the world.
It was a post, originally by Robert Scoble that was shared by someone else into my feed (I’d link to it, but it’s fucking impossible to find a link – first gripe with Plus right there, but really the least of their problems). In it, Scoble goes through 11extensively explained points on what he thinks people are doing wrong in Google Plus and, therefore, not understanding just how brilliant and earth-shattering it really is.
Here’s the thing though Scoble: If you need 11 points and many hundreds of words to merely explain the underlying concepts behind your social network then you’re already in trouble.
Google Plus is suffering from exactly the same problems that plagued Buzz and Wave: It was designed by engineers to use in an environment populated entirely by engineers. It’s why you always hear them say things like “it worked great in internal testing, everyone loved it”. It’s because Google is a company populated almost entirely by engineers – they all think the same way.
The usability, from a consumer’s point of view, is so complex and unintuitive that no normal person is ever going to bother making it the hub of his or her online social life.
This is even before you mention the utterly retarded things that Google has done about user-names, the fact that there is no useful search functionality within Plus as well as attempting to find interesting people to follow is pretty much impossible unless you already know who they are.
Oh, and I almost forgot there’s no API (currently) so you can’t cross-post
from Twitter, Facebook or your own blog.
As a result of all this, it’s just not engaging and unlikely to gain the critical mass of users required to make a serious impact of the entrenched social networking services of Facebook and Twitter.
You have to think about what made Facebook and Twitter successful in becoming such mainstream services then look at what Plus offers. When you do that, it’s plain as day why it’s never going to work.
Facebook is now at the point where even everyone’s most technologically incapable family members now have profiles and regularly use the site to stay in touch with each other. It is incredibly unlikely that you’re going to get all those people to up and change their habits now that they’ve got everything that they want within Facebook and are happy there (and remember, most people are happy using Facebook, regardless of the ongoing privacy issues).
Now, before you bring up the “MySpace was popular too and look where that is now!” argument, let me point out that no one’s parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents were ever on MySpace. MySpace was a social network populated by teenagers who had absolutely no sense of what good aesthetics were. Although it may have had name recognition, it didn’t have the user recognition that Facebook currently enjoys.
Twitter is now the place where people go for public discussion of current affairs (actual current affairs, not the Ch.9 Current Affairs) – be they a developing news story or a communal watching of a (certain, unnamed Monday night on ABC1) TV show.
Twitter’s hashtags make it easy to join in a mass discussion, get a wide variety of views and find new people to follow. It’s built to be public, chaotic and to deliver vast volumes of information to you as quickly as possible.
At the moment, Google Plus just doesn’t provide that same level of interactivity or that sense that you are part of a community discourse when you’re tweeting along to Eurovision, the Gruen Transfer or Question Time. Sure, you can post publicly, but there’s no way to collate all the public posts about a topic into one, easy to find place.
Google Plus is simply lacking the useability that would make it a serious player in the social media space. Sure, there are going to be those that get a great deal of use out of it and will proclaim it to be something revolutionary – I’m sure there are people that say the same for LinkedIn.
But ultimately, Google Plus is heading towards the same slow, painful death that we’ve seen from Buzz and Wave. Plus is just another example of how Google doesn’t understand social because they’re so set on delivering brilliant engineering. They’re missing those flaky, designer types that are capable of turning that engineering into a useable, sellable product that people will want to use.
But hey, at least it’s now given all the SMEG’s something new to talk about. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?