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Failure Is No Longer An Option

Google may be deliberately singing to a different tune, but much of Google+ is necessary catch up. It is the core of Facebook and Twitter, but with better contact management. Expect additional functionality to roll out thick and fast (check-in was added within 48 hours of launch) and to stress its seriousness this time around Google is matching the look of core products Gmail and Google Calendar to Google+ rather than trying to adapt Google to existing services. Make no mistake, barring disaster, Google+ will be at the forefront of the company's efforts at web and mobile domination for the foreseeable future.

Why? Because Google cannot afford it not to be. In technology dominant companies find themselves undermined by rivals who come at them from an entirely new angle. Microsoft pushed aside IBM through software, Google caught Microsoft napping with search and the ad-supported free nature of its products and now Facebook is scaring everyone by cashing in on something people value even more highly than how much is in their wallets: their friends.

Google may have thought search made it king of the web, but its indexing efforts will be for little if Facebook's growing role as the Internet, as the common online platform, continues to grow unabated. Google has argued it can help you find the information you need better than anyone else, Facebook uses the crowd sourcing power of your friends to bring you information you didn't know to search for – information you also instinctively trust because of the source. Facebook, blips aside, has such momentum within its target audience (16-40 year olds) that the exceptions are those not on Facebook, rather than the other way around. The argument for the rest of the population we'll leave to another day.

And this is the battle Google faces. Facebook may look ugly and have a poor privacy record, but people join Facebook now because their friends are all on Facebook. Google+ needs users fast and this time simply claiming all your Gmail account holders are active members isn't going to cut it.

You can change your language, talk of community and social circles all you like, but without clear momentum towards achieving that Google+ will fail quickly. Perspective dominates social networking. Much like the cool hangouts when you were a child, everyone rushes to where everyone else is and they quickly flee those places seen to be losing popularity. Just ask News Corp, who lost $545m of the $580m it paid when selling MySpace on Thursday…


The prize for Google to get Google+ right is huge. With social networking success Google will have a full set: dominant mobile software, an emerging desktop platform, the primary index of the Web and then the social network to tie them all together. It is the glue to bind everything Google has accomplished to date. Think how easily Picasa, Google Music and more would fit into Google Plus if it can only grow large enough to make integrating them worthwhile.

Right now looking at Google+ it appears users and critics alike are split and both success and failure seem equally likely. Google knows that if it is to maintain the unstoppable momentum which has characterised the company so far it must tip those odds in its favour…


July 4, 2011, 4:05 pm

Facebook: Log On, Check Notifications, Poke people back, go to homepage, do that "Happy Birthday" ritual, back to homepage, change from top news to most recent, have a scroll down, "like" a few pages/comments, bored already ....

I'd be interested in taking a look at Google+ if it offered more than Facebook. And as for protection of my data, I'm not sure Google could be worse than Facebook has been to date.


July 4, 2011, 6:46 pm

The figure showing Facebook's rise is pretty crappy: the x axis is has been warped to make it look like linear growth. Naughty Facebook.

Daniel Gerson

July 5, 2011, 12:12 am

I don't understand why they're trying to create something new!!?

"We have the technology" "We can rebuild him" dum dum dum.

Google has the technology in YOUTUBE! and PICASSA!
Facebook's photos are crap resolution! It's a feature weakness.
Facebook's video blogging community is also crap.
If Google allowed for easier social youtubing, tagging on youtubing (and picassa? I don't even know if they provide for this feature.... that is how bad their marketing is). AND COMBINE SOCIAL TOOLS ACROSS THEIR EXISTING TOOLS (Tag a blogger.com user in a youtube video).

Integrate GMAIL and ANDROID! as well! and BAM! They can carve out a fat slice of the pie.

...but creating something new? Where's the incentive for me?... bleh.

Daniel Gerson

July 5, 2011, 2:49 am

Yes, I realize I spelt Picasa incorrectly. (I don't use the service).
And apparently, they do have photo tagging now. Of course who am I going to tag when all my friends are on Facebook?

They need more functionally persuasive adverts, and less happy clappy ones. Youtube remains Google's social network trump card. As bandwidth and phones improve, posting to youtube will become as painless as tweeting.


July 6, 2011, 2:51 am

They are on to something with the circles. But it'll have to be damn sexy to interest my friends. I am interested cause I live abroad and my old crew is far away but my friends back home so connecting via a computer is a valuable crutch. Otherwise, emailing with "reply to all" is what people are using already and no need to be all on the same network. The point of facebook is that it is THE one network everyone is on and it is ok for most people's modest purpose. I have serious doubts about the possibility of success of an alternative social network.

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