On January 27, 2012 I wrote what has been my last post to-date on Google Plus: “This is my peace out post. I’m not going to use Google+ anymore. I’m going to use the other networks; the ones that have actual users.” Sure, that was probably a little harsh, but I wanted to vent the extent of my frustration with its users, or lack of.
I was quick to get on Google+ when it launched last summer on June 28. In fact, thanks to an inside invitation from my friend Thomas, my account was active the following day on June 29. I jumped on it. I added family and friends to my G+ circles in a frenzy. I sent out email invitations for others to join as well. Over the following weeks, the uptake from my friends was slow but steady. Posts began to trickle in. I began posting to Google+ regularly, on par with Facebook and Twitter.
Technology geeks flocked to Google+. For the first few weeks, I heard endless excitement and praise about it in the tech press. For a time, it was all the rage. I know several high-profile users who went so far as to abandon their traditional websites and blogs to post exclusively on Google+. For some, it was the new sliced bread.
Now, I’m not here to tear down Google+. It does have many great features, including granular privacy controls, editing of already-posted content, video hangouts, large photo displays, and more. The ingredients of a great social network are there. However, it is still lacking a key ingredient — users. Without a critical mass of users, any social network, no matter how well put together, will not make it in the long run.
I currently have a total of 55 people in all of my combined circles. Within my friends and family circles, I have 22 people. Of those 22 people, only two of them ever post anything. That is a literal non-exaggerated fact. Only two people out of everyone I know ever posts a single update to Google+. As such, there is really no reason for me to bother posting anything either. No one ever logs in to read anything that I post there. Once in a blue moon, Thomas will comment on something I’ve written, but one person commenting on a post here and there doesn’t make it all that worthwhile. When compared to the broad community experience of Facebook, there is no comparison.
Google+ has strong potential to be valuable for keeping up with important people that I have in my “following” circle. Within that circle, I keep a lot of tech heads, photographers, and other online celebrity types. When I view my stream, I am able to discover valuable information and conversation around an array of topics. That is fine and dandy, but I can do the same on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, every single person that exists in any of my G+ circles I already have on either Twitter or Facebook, or both. Google+ doesn’t offer much more than I am not already getting elsewhere. I will shamelessly add that Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, follows my account on Google+! While that is exciting, he has never written me, nor does he have any reason to.
When Google Buzz had its botched launch in 2010, I avoided it. In the two years of its existence, I never used Buzz one single time. Buzz wasn’t popular at all. I had no interest in posting status updates to an empty void where it would never be read. I was already happily using Twitter, which Buzz never came close to in popularity. Google eventually killed Buzz in late 2011.
Unlike Buzz, Google+ does not look like it is destined to fail. However, from my perspective, it shares a similar problem as Buzz in that hardly anyone actually uses it, so far anyway. As of the end of 2011, Google reported that G+ has approximately 90 million users. That number shows impressive growth from the time it was launched in the summer, but I imagine that the number of active users is but a tiny fraction of that sum.
The future of Google+ can go either way. I’m certain that Google is betting on its long-term success. After all, they seem hellbent on promoting it wherever they can. The company recently began rolling Google+ results into their new “search plus your world” initiative, something I can’t say I am personally very happy about. In the end, time will tell. Google has deep pockets and if they are dedicated to advancing their social network, I’m sure it will eventually make inroads into the Internet psyche. Until that day arrives, I’ll continue to post exclusively to Facebook and Twitter.