Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Yes, Google+ Is a Failure

One of the most common bits of feedback about my post “Google+ Failed Because of Real Names” is that Google+ is now a huge service, and that the word failed is an exaggeration, or a trick of the rhetorician.

Some folks might advise me to stop digging a hole, put down the shovel and walk away. But
I’m going to pick up that shovel, and try to convince you that I’m not exaggerating. Google+ may not be a New Coke level failure, it may be a successful failure, but it’s a failure nonetheless.

The goal of Google+ is to dominate the social network space, replacing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and building a moat around Google’s core business of advertising. That moat ought to consist of Google having more information about you than the CIA does (ok, that’s hyperbole. The CIA can’t store that much info). The moat ought to be that Google can show your wallet-name ads that tug at your wallet-strings.

Do you really think that Google wanted to enter this market to play second-fiddle to Facebook? Do you think that Google is happy that Facebook is going to pop out in the biggest IPO in history real soon now, giving them a massive war chest?

I think that the answer is fairly obviously a no. Now, you could argue that Google+ is en route to topple Facebook. That Google will take three tries to get it right or something, like they did with Search and Mail and Maps. (Oh, wait, they didn’t take three tries on any of those.)

What’s more, I don’t think that no was pre-ordained because of Facebook’s massive user-base. People were willing to show up at Google+ and explore. And that exploration rapidly foundered on the nymwars.

I think the system could and should have done better, if Google wasn’t so hell-bent on controlling what name people could display for themselves.

4 comments on "Yes, Google+ Is a Failure"

  • marquisem says:

    Even if Google+ weren’t a failure, their recent “one identity to sell to advertisers”, I mean, their “one privacy policy to make your life simple” may make some people reconsider moving. I realize that as a professional geek, I care more about that than the average bear. But I have different email addresses for a reason. I have different online personas that I accentuate or use less commonly AS I CHOOSE. And if using Google products means I don’t get that choice, well, then my choice means less Google. Can I use Maps and Search anonymously? Sure. I can also use MapQuest and Startpage just as easily. And I will.

  • jon says:

    Resist totalizing narratives! It seems to me that it’s still too early to know whether or not G+ is a success or failure, and the answer won’t be unambiguous. Here’s what I wrote in a discussion of your last post on G+:

    I also think “failed” is an overstatement. From an engineering perspective it looks like a huge success, moving all their properties onto a very solid new platform built around an “identity system” that’s optimized for sharing data about users with advertisers and governments. By making G+ the default on new Android and gmail signups, advertising heavily, using their dominant position in search to favor G+ posts and pressure web sites to install +1 buttons, Google’s continuing to get signups for the system. As for usage and engagement, if you like Google’s redefinition “using G+” to include searching (or checking gmail) (or reader or any other Google property) then the numbers are ok; if not, it looks like a very low adoption rate. I’m working on a blog post on this and so far my conclusion is “reasonable minds differ”.

    That said I basically agree with Adam’s thesis here. There was a good discussion of this back in November at htto:// … once again, reasonable minds differ, but I know what I think 🙂 Google+’s unnecessary insistence on their unpopular, expensive, contentious naming policy and the resulting unpleasantness of the nymwars blunted their initial growth. They lost their a great chance to take significant market share away from Facebook and Twitter with a spectacular launch. Yes, there’s been progress since but it was a huge blunder and it was based on an incorrect assumption and not listening to the hundreds of people who said “hey wait a second”. Oops.


  • David Gerard says:

    It’s reasonably clear that Google are willing to throw money as it takes at this pig to get it to fly. Did Facebook ever run ads in print or on the Tube trying to convince office workers they could bitch about their boss without getting caught? G+ has. At that point, it’s a question of whether it turns a profit. It’s clearly not the organic success Facebook was, but this may not matter if they keep promoting it as hard as they are.

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