Google Plus could be minus the elements it needs to succeed
So, ten million people have already jumped the velvet rope into the exclusive clubby surrounds of Google+. But only half a dozen that I know.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
I’m not taking the piss. As somebody whose twitter stream rages like a torrent, and who has two thousand new best friends I’ve never met on Facebook, I like the idea of a social media hub in which only a couple of mates are rattling around, checking the beer fridge and putting their feet up on my couch. Partly it's a matter of more robust privacy settings at G+. You are notoriously exposed on Facebook. The default setting for Plus seems to lean towards privacy and a much stricter control of your groups, or 'Circles'.
Not much of a business model though, is it? A couple of guys kicking around in a tiny, if beautifully designed friendship circle. And if Google are about anything it's massive scaleability.
It's not hard to see why the googs jumped into social notworking. Facebook provides nothing of any real value and it's valued at billions. Twitter has no settled revenue model, but by some estimates it's already turning a tidy profit.
If Google can capture more of your world than just your gmail address, it can more tightly target the advertising with which it already makes billions of dollars a year. Indeed, if it can provide a real alternative to Zuckerberg, it could possibly even do him some real damage. After all, there’s a whole lotta hatin’ out there for the 'book.
There are a couple of big ifs and buts, however.
For the moment there’s no compelling reason to have your G+ tab open, 24/7 in the same way it feels like you need to have your twitter feed running constantly, just in case you miss someone eating a really awesome sandwich or zapping off a choice zinger during MasterChef.
@benmckelvey "When I heard we're cooking for the Dalai Lama my first thought was, 'isn't that the guy we killed in Pakistan?" says Ellie.
@nuradical: It's as bad as if Jesus was on "So you think u can dance", #masterchef #awkward
@JohnBirmingham: Whoah! The Dalai Llama is using The Force to cure Ellie of lameness!
(Well I thought it was funny).
The other, probably deeper issue is Google itself, which doesn't have a great attention span when it comes to supporting products that aren't immediately, wildly successful. Yes. They've gathered 10 million users – but for now they’re mostly Geeks drawn by the glint of the new shiny precious. Which is fine for those of us who have lots of geeks as friends, but may not draw in the hundreds of millions of average punters you need to get medieval on Facebook.
One of the big cultural differences between, say, Microsoft and Google is that Microsoft tends to figure out if there is a need for a product before they go to the effort of building it. Google is more: “Wow this is cool - we'll build it and throw it out there and see if it catches on”. This leads to a culture where Redmond sticks with a product that isn't immediately successful, giving it a few versions to see if it catches on – or not, as in the Zune – while Mountain View throws stuff out at random, frequently orphaning their babies, rather than taking them back to the nursery if they’re not popular right away.
Sometime in the next two minutes we can probably look to Facebook to adapt and promote their Groups feature so that it is more intuitive and less sucky - the big advantage of Circles at the moment. If Zuckerberg does that, then people have much less reason to switch to Plus. At which point Google's ADHD management will likely say "fark this" and move on to something even newer and shinier.
Oh, and if anyone would like an invite to Google Plus, just tip me the nod in the comments.