Google+ will go down in history with the Microsoft Zune, Crystal Pepsi and Jaden Smith as embarrassing failures made by household names.
Google pulled the plug on its social media experiment and it’s about goddamn time.
Google+ was fine (I assume), but nobody knew anything about it or cared to find out. If Google+ was a coworker, it would be the boring one whose name you keep forgetting. “Greg? Craig!?”
Here’s an honest obituary from a typical Google+ user: Someone who logged on a few times and did nothing.
Like Greg-Craig, I met Google+ through work.
A coworker came over to my desk and said, “Google is launching their own social network platform.”
“Huh. Do we really need that? Meh, it might be OK.” Early indifference was the best I ever felt about Google+.
Then, word got out that their first wave of users would be invite-only. “Pfft, fuck off.”
The invite-only concept worked for Facebook because there was nothing like it before. There was a mystique around it in the early days, like an online speakeasy.
Google created a buzz for Gmail with the invite-only concept in 2004. But, by 2011, everyone saw this as a transparent ploy. It was like a shitty bar starting a line-up outside to fool you into thinking it was good.
And like the shitty bar with a line-up, we all passed by Google+ and went someplace better.
Here’s Google+ Whether You Want it or Not
After a meh-zmerzing launch, Google Plus stopped the invite-only nonsense and went with giving accounts to everyone… whether they asked for it or not.
After years of clinging to my Hotmail address, the day came where I needed a Gmail address. So I got one. After sign up, they were like, “Hey, here’s your free Google Plus account to go with it.” Cool?
I felt like the guy who just detailed my car left his demo tape on the dashboard. “Neat. I’ll get to this later.”
It was like when I was in Grade 4 and ordered Spaceballs through Scholastic Reading Club. When the box arrived, they threw in the novelization of The Coreys’ License to Drive. I didn’t even ask for it. They just gave it to me.
“I didn’t ask for this. What the fuck am I going to do with this? I’m not even sure I want people to know I have this.” This was how I felt about both the book and Google+.
By the way, yes, I read it. And that book is my rebuttal when someone says the book is always better than the movie. “Yeah, what about License to Drive?”
This is how Google Plus grew their numbers to 90 million users by early 2012… by straight-up just giving accounts to people with Gmail addresses. But were people actually using it? Nein.
Those reported 90 million users were only spending an average of 3.3 minutes a month there and 0 minutes caring. At the time, Facebook users were spending 7.5 hours on the site or in the app.
They were basically logging any action in the Google world as engaging with Google+, even if you simply opened a Google Doc. That is some James Harden-level-stat-padding right there.
By 2014, more people than ever were not-using Google+ with a reported 540 million “users.”
The New York Times reported that Google+ was now a ghost town. Not true. Ghost towns are cool.
Being Forced to Work With Google+
After a few weeks, I was forced to open my Google+ account again.
My company was setting up Google+ accounts for our clients, as another means of promoting their blogs. So, as Content Manager, I now had to manage 8-10 Google accounts for small businesses. I was now Greg-Craig’s manager. Shit, this is gonna be awkward.
And this failed miserably. To be fair, we didn’t give it a chance. We were doing nothing but sharing the links to each blog. And that’s no way to gain sort of traction on any sort of social network. So, shame on us.
But, also, there was simply no-god-damn-one using Google+. Each of our brands had a handful of followers. Then I’d click on each follower, and yup, thought so, they worked for the company.
Google+’s Death Blow and Legacy
I got a crippling gut punch in my inbox a few days ago. Email, Subject Line: “Your personal Google+ account is going away on April 2, 2019.”
What?! How am I going to keep in touch with absolutely nobody? How will I keep tabs on my… followers? Friends? Connections? Seriously, what the fuck did Google+ call them? No idea.
I was surprised at how honest they were. The email said, “We announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations.”
They flat out said, “Low usage” instead of some nonsense about shifting markets or whatever. I respect that.
In the end, they dumped Google+ for the same reason we dump old cars: Something broke and it just wasn’t worth it to fix it.
In October of 2018, Google+ got hacked; leaving 500,000 accounts exposed and they failed to disclose it. To be fair, if they did disclose it would anyone have given a shit?
Google’s President of Engineering declared G+ not worth saving by saying it “has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”
Again, I respect the honesty.
Why didn’t people take the leap? I personally dumped Apple Music for Google Play and Microsoft Office for Google Docs. I can testify that they do make good shit that’s worth migrating to. But you literally couldn’t pay me to use Google+.
Was it a case of Google+ just not having any perceived competitive advantage? Was the world just too in love with Facebook and Twitter in 2011? It’s hard to lock down a single reason why Google+ never gained any traction.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, or click here and we can argue about it over email.