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Why Google Plus Is Not The One (But I'll Be On It Anyways)

The chorus of the socialerati was unanimous: Facebook was no longer cool. Too many grandmas and cats, too many games and ads and noise, too many gurus pushing programs and businesses hawking stuff.

So when Google+ launched as an invite-only “Field Test”, all of the cool dudes (and they were mainly dudes) rushed to the new platform and proclaimed it as the best thing since sliced bread.

People were fighting each other like Filene’s Running Of The Brides to get a precious invite to join Google+. The service, still in a testing stage, reached something like 10 million accounts in the space of two weeks.

But your humble scribe, not so socialerati but still curious about this stuff, managed to get in at somewhere the four million mark. My first impression?

Meh.

Google+ is not the revolution we’ve been waiting for. And it just might go the same way as Google Wave or Google Buzz.

My main annoyance about Google+ is that it is more of the same. Yes there are things like Circles and Sparks and Whosits and Whatsits but it is still the same people sharing the same stuff as they do on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.

Here are some of my thoughts why Google+ misses the mark now and will do so for the foreseeable future:

1. Google+ further fragments my attention span.

Attention is the currency of the new economy. There are only 86,400 seconds in a day, and I haven’t succeeded in learning how to walk, chew gum and update at the same time. Recent statistics say that people spend 22 minutes a day on Facebook but only 90 seconds on Google+. Actually, I don’t think that’s quite accurate because of the way the service is used – my Facebook tab on my browser might be open that long each day (and probably even longer) but it is hidden behind other tabs. I use the same window for Google+ as for GMail and other services, so it is more of a get-in-get-out usage pattern.

2. My circle is already connected.

I’m already connected to lots of people on Twitter (around 2500) and Facebook (around 1500) and LinkedIn (around 800). And many of these people I’m connected to on all three platforms, among others. Where am I going to find new people to connect with? By inviting my connections on the the other platforms to join me also on Google+?

3. I only have so much to say.

I’m already using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to multicast my ideas to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I hope soon Google+ will publish an API so I can use the same tools and not have to cut and paste between services. But it will be the same number of updates, multicast to four services instead of three, because I can only think of so many brilliant things to say per day.

4. I resent Google forcing my work tools to become social.

So much so that I set up a new Google profile only for G+ and Google Reader. I’m concerned about privacy, hacking, and especially of the possibility of Google yanking my account because of the fine print in their terms of service. Not that I will purposely do something bad, but I personally know colleagues on Facebook who saw their outpost there suddenly banned without explanation or appeal. I have no reason to believe that Google won’t be as evil, or more, especially given the “free expression” nature of social.

5. What I really don’t like is that Google+ doesn’t bring significant new value added to social.

For progress to be incremental, innovation must be disruptive. The expectations were high when the rumors about Google+ were circulating pre-launch. But the bottom line, as I see it, is that Google+ is just another social channel in a rapidly fragmenting social universe. I will use it, because as a tribe-builder, I need to be everywhere to connect with people. But I don’t plan on wasting precious heartbeats micro-managing my connections into circles.

Facebook may be going through a dip in its record-setting adoption rate. That is good, and would be happening whether Google+ was on the scene or not. Google may boast of high participation rates, but I think that will be due to the “forced” nature of signup, i.e. if you’re a Google services user, you will have a G+ account by default. But will you use it? When is the last time you posted only on Google Buzz?

Will social still be relevant in 2020? I expect so. I remember back in 1999 I was using my mobile phone to access my e-mail on my Pentium II laptop, just like I use my iPhone today to get e-mail. But the fundamental experience is very different. I believe the contrast in social in 2020 compared to now will be just as different.

Unfortunately, Google+ doesn’t disrupt the experience of social enough to start a new paradigm. I’m not worried, though. There’s still eight years left to go.

For more information

In the meantime, find me on Google+ here:
http://ow.ly/5KVyV

TechCrunch: Google+ At 10 Million Users:
http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/14/larry-page-on-google-over-10-million-users-1-billion-items-shared/

Behave On Google Plus Or Your Gmail Gets It (gawker.com)
http://gawker.com/5823121/behave-on-google-plus-or-your-gmail-gets-it

Google+ Growth Since Launch (Experian Hitwise) – stats on page hits and dwell time
http://weblogs.hitwise.com/heather-dougherty/2011/07/google_growth_since_launch.html

Comic from xkcd http://xkcd.com/918/ Used under Creative Commons licence

This is the first post I’ve written and posted using my iPad and the iOS WordPress app. Not bad, eh?

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