Is Google+ Worth It?
There has been a ton of sound and fury regarding Google’s social networking website, Google+.
Well, actually, there has been a lot of noise in the echo chamber of the techie dome. It turns out that none of my family members, nor any of my no-IT friends have even heard of it. Even less are interested in doing anything with it. Many of them get to see pictures from friends and family on Facebook and keep up with what is going on with those same people via Facebook status updates. Unlike the Scoble’s of the world, they don’t want or need anything beyond that.
What seems to make this all the more interesting is the difference between the techie impulse to be on the leading-edge of technology and the I already have what I need impulse of non-techies.
Facebook versus Google Beginning
There are plenty of technology writers out there comparing the nuances of Facebook to Google Plus to Twitter. There are those who already have crowned one of them the champion and proclaimed that it is only a matter of time. Plenty of pundits have already whipped out their terminology bag and written about the either insurmountable network effects of Facebook or the over-hyped network effects of Facebook.
For those of you without a techno-speak / business babble dictionary, network effects is the concept that by having a lot of people already in place (your "network") you are more likely to start using, or keep using, a particular service or technology.
For example, a grandmother may be on Facebook for no reason other than to see pictures of her grandkids. Nothing Google does will make that grandmother sign up until someone in her network (one of her kids, in this example) starts posting pictures of grandchildren over there.
Which brings us to all of the noise.
Compare Twitter to Facebook, for example. There are millions of stories about your (or someone you know) mom wanting to be your friend on Facebook. Ever hear of a mom who wanted to follow you on Twitter? Despite having millions of users, Twitter is not as mainstream as Facebook despite a huge number of users and a commanding spot in the field of social networking. Google+ is neither Facebook nor Twitter yet. It is simply new. It is not, however mainstream in any way.
Techies love to rush to the next big thing and then pronounce how it will change our lives and everyone will be using it in the future. It rarely works out that way. While most technology types spend plenty of time online, and therefore have plenty of time to try and use numerous services, most non-techies have a more limited interest in what happens on the internet. In fact, the entire value of Facebook comes down to not what it does, can do, or will do, but that it has drawn in the mainstream population as users. That didn’t happen quickly, it took years.
Google+ has a big head start in that most people who use the internet at all have heard of the company and use its search service. But, it is a much smaller part of the population that use its ubiquitous email service and and even smaller part that use any of its other services. For them, "another Facebook" is not something that they need or want, no matter who is behind it.
As of today, that is about all you can say. Anyone predicting the assent or demise of Google+ is missing the boat. If, and only if, Google+ can extend beyond the internet-savvy population will it have any affect on Facebook. For that to happen, it will take time and some non-techies to get on board.