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?
2 thoughts on “Google+ is Dead? It Died a Long Time Ago”
I’ve always been a bit confused by the antipathy to Google+. It worked for some people. It didn’t for others. I used it very successfully for about five years before users really started falling off. I got more engagement in those years on Google+ than on Facebook. Since then, I’ve spent more time on Facebook and gotten better at what works there, but there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with Google+ other than the fact that people left.
But somehow, Google+ makes people upset. Why? I can see choosing not to use it, but why the anger? Facebook has been far more annoying and far less protective of personal data so far, but even so, I use it because it is where people are. If they all switched to some reincarnation of MySpace, I’d go there. I use Instagram a lot recently. Why? Because the authors I want to reach are there. Certainly not because it is a useful or intuitive interface.
I didn’t hate Google+ pr se, I just found the GUI very frustrating. Facebook is much easier to stay on top of, especially notifications. Google+ was a mess. I’m always open for alternatives to Facebook, but Google just couldn’t deliver the goods. And it was obvious that they did NOT put the resources into developing it into a good social network. To quote a friend of mine who worked at Google when this was released:
“first pointed out that key workflows were horseshit and then urged them repeatedly to pay attention to users. And then, after a long time, I stopped forcing myself to use it and just gave up on the platform.
Google+ died two deaths. First it died for the consumer because Google didn’t fucking pay attention to the design and the user. Then it died because the cost of maintaining it responsibly outweighed the benefits.
For me Google+ was first and foremost a study in how to have great tech and then allow fuckups to design the user experience and/or have people with no UX sense lead a product that is ALL UX.”
As for Instagram, I agree that the GUI and the way it works just keeps getting worse. I used to post at least once a day. Now it can be 10-14 days in between. And it sucks that you can’t see the feed in chronological order.