Google’s latest foray into social networking, under the banner Google +, has plenty of people talking. Unlike Google Buzz, the new service is getting some major hype and good press. And there are plenty of innovative ideas being thrown behind the project, like Circles and Hangouts (Basically web Skype). And I’ve been enjoying using the new service and will likely call it my social home when it’s released to the public.
But there are a number of reasons why, in my opinion, Google Plus will not be a Facebook or Twitter killer. Sure, I have no doubt it’ll be popular with geeks, but to get mass market appeal it needs to lose some things that Google will never take away and add some things too. There are a few major barriers stopping regular people entering the new social hub.
Firstly, a major barrier is the need for a Google Account. Yes, I know this sounds stupid. People have to sign up for Facebook and Twitter too. But have you tried signing up for Gmail recently? It’s a nightmare. There are no longer any usernames available, and if you find one you will have to stick with it forever. Both Twitter and Facebook will let you change your username, yet Google never has and surely isn’t about to start offering this basic feature. Sure, you can sign up without a Gmail, but it’s still a barrier and you’ll miss out on some of the things people with Gmail will get.
Also, if you do want to use the same account as you use for Gmail, there is a privacy issue. While Google won’t give out your email, in the future they may give out your Username. And, as we all know, that username will be your Gmail username, unless Google changes this time around.. And this is a major privacy concern. Imagine a celebrity sharing their private email by mistake.
Google can fix all of the above by either letting you link a Google Plus account, which is separate, to a Google account, to a Google Account. Or allowing us to pick a username. But Google has never done any of this before and, as I said above, I doubt they’ll start now.
Another problem with Google + is the learning curb. If you’re moving from the simplistic Twitter, or slightly harder Facebook, Google + might take a fair amount of time to learn. Things like Circles, Hangouts and more are cool, but mean it’s actually pretty hard for regular people to dive into Google +. And while this isn’t a barrier for most people, it does mean that lots of people just won’t get it. And then those people will complain about their privacy and Google will have to simplify their settings like Facebook has. And then they’ll still complain about their privacy for some odd reason.
And my final (so far) reason why I think Google + will not be successful for anyone other than geeks is the fact that it doesn’t differentiate enough. People didn’t move from MySpace to Facebook because it was better. They moved because it offered a lot of new ideas and major changes. People got bored of changing their MySpace page and Facebook greatly changed that. Twitter also is very different from Facebook and Myspace. But Google + just feels like Facebook and Twitter combined with a few more and a few less features. And so far that recipe really means that, in my opinion, Google + will either be gone in a few years or only being used by a few. And if it is successful, colour me surprised.