On April 1st, Google+ became one more tombstone on Google’s product and service graveyard (two sites: Google Cemetery, Google Graveyard). Many claimed that it has been a ghost town for quite a while already, and in the last 2-3 years, I did see more old friends and acquaintances disappear from Google+ than I saw new ones joining. My “Reading circle” contained 100 people – in the end only three of them still posted something.
Before I logged off for the last time on March 31st, I made a screenshot of my profile page, so this post is the personal tombstone for my Google+ profile.
The shutdown has been a long time coming but amazingly, in the last 365 days, Google+ still ranks third among the referrers that brought traffic to my photography website (first being search, and second Twitter). Not that bad for a ghost town.
When Google+ was brand new in 2011, photographers were among the first to adopt Google’s new social network. Business Insider compiled a list of “Top 104 Amazing Photographers to Circle on Google+” – and I was on it! The list was alphabetically sorted by first name, so that played out nicely for me. 😉
Over time, I must also have been in the “suggested user list” at some point – there’s no way I would have amassed the number of followers I had on Google+ otherwise. My collection “Music” had ~10000 followers more, it too must have been featured somehow at some point.
Not that these numbers mattered much, anyway: in the last few months, my posts got a “response” in the form of a comment or a “+1” from something like 5-10 people, at most – as I said, it has been pretty dead for a while already!
It is unfortunate that Google wasn’t capable of maintaining a viable alternative to Facebook. Google+ certainly had the potential: the concept of “Circles” of people (though Google took away a lot of its functionality, like the sharing and rearranging), the “Collections” that people could subscribe to or unsubscribe from individually (I loved that!), the neutral “+1” (much better than a “Like” or “Love” or “Favorite”, because it could also mean “I hear you” or “I agree”).
Over time, the main mistake was perhaps that they – once more – didn’t listen to their users. I wasn’t involved much in Google+, but hearing how Google essentially dismissed the feedback from key users (that they had invited to fill that role!) in order to pursue “something else” reminded me a lot of my time as a “trusted tester” and Google help forums “superuser” for Picasa and Picasa Web Albums: we carried the wishes we heard in the forums from users repeatedly to our Google contact – and then nothing would happen, or something completely irrelevant would be added to the product. It was frustrating.
Back then, Picasa Web Albums was actually among the first until-then-separate service that got “integrated” into Google+ (until it was dismantled in favor of Google Photos). If you wanted to join Google+ with your Google account, you had to link the two together.
Google saw that a strong sense of community had evolved in Picasa Web Albums, and they thought they could just transfer it into Google+. Picasa Web Albums users obviously loved that. NOT. 😛
This was an early indication of how dead-set Google was to drive Google+ into all of their products. I distinctly remember the absurdity of the YouTube integration: when someone shared a YouTube video on Google+ (by pasting the YouTube link into a G+ post), any comments on that G+ post would also appear as comments on the YouTube video! The context was completely lost.
This was – from my perspective – just one of the many mistakes, some small some big, that Google made when they were hell-bent to make Google+ a success. Others would be the crazy policing of real name usage (going as far as limiting or disabling people’s accounts when Google’s machinery didn’t think that their name was real – they had to send in a scan or photo of their photo ID to unlock it!), or the unfortunate design “updates” that introduced the clunky, “waste of space” design that more reminded of products for senior citizens with poor eyesight than a modern social media platform. :-}
I guess the users of Google+ too had to learn that in the end, it’s only money that counts, and if there’s no money to be made from a product, then Google will, just like any other company would, kill it. A social network means more to people though than any other web service: after all, it is a network with other people that folks had built over time. After Orkut, Buzz, Google+ and who knows what other failures and screwups, let’s just hope that Google doesn’t try “social” again.
Personally, I would like to see that the problems that social media sites had and continue to have would lead people back to maintaining their personal home pages or blogs. Just don’t use Blogger because you know… it’s another Google service that’s been pretty dormant for an awfully long time already!
WordPress is a great platform that makes it super easy to start one’s own site and blog! 😉