People may think I’m nuts, but Google+ is going to be the lever that begins prying Google away from total domination of much of our online lives.
What follows is, of course, conjecture, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t trust my instincts often enough, so here goes….
They’ve Shot Themselves Over Search, Of All Things
By using Google+ to manipulate their own search results, Google abandons the very core of their business culture – serving up unfiltered, “best” results as they attempt to organize the world’s information.
By telling Google employees who push back to get on the train or get out, they undo their organization’s credibility from the top down. A cushy work environment in Mountain View is just lipstick on a pig if your business doesn’t deliver on its promises.
I don’t know where it’s going to come from (Microsoft’s Bing search engine is not nimble enough, although I’d be happy to be proven wrong) but there will be a challenger to Google that will come out of nowhere and capture those who want to go back to basics.
FocusOnTheUser.org is one example of how that movement has already begun, with their “Don’t Be Evil” alternative search button tool. Tellingly, it was created by some engineers from Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. (Update – looks like it’s defunct, now goes to some sort of investment site.)
Privacy – Google Is All UP In Your Business
The privacy issues with Google are even more significant than Facebook’s.
At least with Facebook, you can just get the heck off of it, or at a minimum take draconian measures with your settings.
Google is everywhere – our email, our videos, our maps, our photos, our search habits and our Android phones – and you cannot opt out of their creepy data mining.
I’ve been told that many people don’t understand the implications of this, and/or don’t care about privacy issues. Fine, but Congress and the FTC do care. Someone’s going to move on Google; either the consumer public or regulators or both.
Not Another Social Network!
Google+ is essentially another Facebook with some cool bells & whistles (I do like the G+ video Hangouts) but despite apparently roaring user numbers that don’t add up, I sense that in terms of true mass adoption, the regular Joe Bag o’ Donuts guy/gal is not jumping on Google+ like they are getting onto Facebook.
People go where the people are who they want to connect with; I saw this in microcosm in 2008/2009 when Plurk failed as an alternative to Twitter. The Geekerati said that Plurk was so much better organized, easier to use, etc. etc. but the fact is, everyone already HAD networks on Twitter and when they didn’t move over en masse to Plurk, people went back to where the people were.
Does anyone out there really want one more blasted digital thing to manage?
Even a lot of techie types are feeling rather overwhelmed, and many others in the mass market are still figuring out Facebook, are puzzled by blogs, and find email challenging.
(Update Oct 2018 – whelp, Google+ is in fact shutting down.)
Not Another Social Network! Except Maybe Pinterest
In contrast to the “no THERE there” that is Google+, I’ve been watching the recent explosion over digital bulletin boards on Pinterest. No one wants another thing to manage, unless they really like the thing, and they like this one.
Fans of Pinterest are truly crazy about it. My own line of work, tourism and hospitality, is diving into Pinterest. I can’t remember when I’ve seen such rapid adoption and wild enthusiasm, albeit still mostly among a more tech-savvy crowd than the mass market.
May I remind you of the popularity of scrapbooking? The hordes of people who’ve jumped onto Facebook worldwide (it just knocked Google’s Orkut off as the number one social network for Brazil) are perfectly capable of figuring out how to transfer their scrapbooking skills and enjoyment to something like Pinterest.
On the other hand, I can’t see any of them lining up to laboriously sort their friends into Circles on Google+. Actually, it wouldn’t be that laborious, because no one’s really ON Google+!
Tech journalist Omar Gallaga compared Pinterest and Google+ on his Digital Savant blog, saying:
“Despite the growth of Google+, I have yet to hear a single person say she loves it. The people I see posting more often there are marketers, photographers, social media experts and a handful of media people like me sharing the same kinds of links and jokes they also post to Twitter and Facebook. Google+ otherwise feels like a weirdly active ghost town….”
My geek crowd is saying that they love the visual organizing, inspiration and connections on Pinterest, but most see Google+ as a somewhat bothersome “I have to do it because it’s Google” chore.
A privacy-invading chore is not a recipe for mass adoption.
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
We’ve been here before with AOL and Yahoo! and other behemoths who are now pygmies. No one stays on top forever.
Google has self-immolated their corporate values by embracing search manipulation and calling it “social.” Update: Farhad Manjoo on Slate – “Google just broke its search engine.”
They’ve created something that is mostly a marketing obligation for many, a chance to write a quick how-to book for others and a genuine place of enjoyment for specific niches like photographers, who do seem to like G+.
That’s not much of an endorsement for what will be yet another Google failure at building a social network, and will also lead to the beginning of the end because it is not part of the business culture or values that made their company great.
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