Time has been called on Google’s failed social network effort. The warning signs were there early on. Launched in June 2011, arguably at the height of Facebook’s growth and just prior to Zuckerberg and Co’s purchase of Instagram, Google+ (or was it Google Plus?) was intended to be a genuine contender for our social hangtime.
In the early days, it attempted to emulate Facebook’s more organic, tiered launch — Harvard followed by other US colleges, then the broader US market, before going global).
But in a mature market (six or seven years into the Facebook phenomenon), Google wasn’t coming from a place of anonymity.
I remember watching from afar, wondering when I could join this exclusive club, invited to the beta rollout. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months … and I lost interest.
By the time I was deemed worthy of creating an account, the shine had worn off and the prospect of hangouts with friends was not as much of a quantum leap from Facebook’s offering as I had expected.
Going in its favour, of course, was the mothership. Google search continues to obliterate other search engines, and a Google+ account was touted to deliver improved search rankings for brands and people — an alluring prospect, indeed.
So why did it fail and what can we learn from it?
In a series of tweets in October 2018, former Google+ designer Morgan Knutson lifted the lid on the company’s vision and rationale for the platform.
Rather than one of innovation or the creation of a unique offering, Knutson claimed the product vision was based on the fear of losing the race to the ‘world’s data’ to Facebook.
On 11 October 2018 he tweeted: “…Google built the knowledge graph, and Facebook swooped in and built the social graph. If we don’t own the social graph then we can’t claim to have indexed ALL the world’s data.”
And a day later: “There was a distinct lack of a grand vision”.
Pretty damning for one of the world’s most powerful tech companies.
The tweets coincided with Google’s announcement that the sun was setting on the platform. Google had reported a security flaw that allowed developers to access the personal data of more than 500,000 Google+ profiles. It was the final straw and the winding-up process started.
Like most tech failings, it wasn’t the tech that let it down. In a world that is obsessed with artificial intelligence and the internet of things, Google failed to recognise the end user is still human. If we can’t see ourselves in the brands we adopt, then they become fads.
At Rowland, we don’t deliver tech just because it’s the shiniest, latest offering. It has to be right — for you, your brand and your customers.
While technology can help deliver efficiencies, drive business improvements and create new marketplaces, we are steadfast in our belief that you cannot cut corners on developing and/or refining your brand and purpose. If you can’t convincingly articulate these out loud, don’t be surprised when your customers can’t either — no matter how fancy your new tech solution is.