Google has announced that they are shutting down Google+ for consumers. The biggest surprise for me isn’t that they are shutting down what was their attempt to create a competitor to Facebook. The surprise for me is that Google+ actually still exists.
When Google+ was released as a replacement for Google Buzz (don’t ask) back in 2011, it was obvious that Google had high hopes for it. However, it pretty quickly became clear that
- The user interface was really bad and counter intuitive
- It was very hard to follow the contents that mattered to you
- Notifications were a bitch to keep up with
- Nobody used it
I tried Google+ for almost two years, and then I gave up on it. I shared my postings there just like I do on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn today, but I soon discovered that whenever I omitted sharing an article on Google+, it didn’t affect traffic at all.
This spring I had to check if Google+ was still around. And to my big surprise it was! I never deleted my profile there, so I could go straight in. I saw that they had tried to improve the user interface, and while it was better, it was too alien compared to the functionality that you have in solutions like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, IBM Connections, Microsoft Teams and so on.
I also discovered that it was a place for people who feel too hip to use Facebook and Twitter. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I have a strange feeling that the people who find even the Linux operative system Ubuntu too mainstream were highly represented on Google+. Whenever I pointed out to these people that nobody were using Google+, they always protested trying to persuade me that a lot of people were using it.
I then showed them the sharing statistics for the various newspapers and blogs I write for. They usually went something like this:
Facebook 45289 shares. Twitter: 6543 shares. Google+: 0 shares
Their usual retort would then be that at the “important web sites” Google+ sharings were much higher than for the other two services.
Now Google’s own statement tells it like it is:
Of the roughly 540 million user accounts, less than half of those who had an account actually used Google+ more than once a month. And 90% of the users who did visit, spent less than five seconds at the site! I guess that’s how long it takes to realise nothing has happened since the last time you visited.
Google themselves probably found this very embarrassing, because they eventually dropped the sharing counter. And then they tried to force YouTube users into having to registering for Google+ profile to be able to post and comment on the video service. This backfired hugely, and Google had to reverse that decision.
Now, I’m all for solutions and stuff that’s outside what’s mainstream (I am after all an IBM Notes user/developer, buyer of vinyl LPs and a Commodore 64 geek) but Google+ was a failure from day one.
I said in the beginning of this piece that the biggest surprise was that Google+ was still around. That’s not quite true. Google’s reasoning for shutting the site down is almost as surprising.
Google released a statement saying that a bug in its software meant information that people believed was private had been accessible by third parties. Furthermore, up to 500,000 users had been affected. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company knew about the issue in March but did not disclose it.
Does this mean Google+ would still have been kept on life support if this hadn’t happened?