Tuesday 2nd April 2019 saw the mighty Google finally pull the plug on its failed Google+ social media platform. Originally released in June 2011 as an invitation only platform before opening up to everyone later in the year, G+ has always been the problem child of the corporation.
Released to compete with the big boys of the time, namely Facebook and Twitter, Google’s fourth social media attempt (after several abortive add-ons, partnerships and buy outs) was intended to support the booming YouTube community and create a multi-faceted network between itself, YouTube, Hangouts and other Google online services.
What happened to Google+? G+ had many of the well-known features we have become accustomed to, like adding friends, posting a status, uploading media, etc. and the added feature of organising friends into ‘Circles’ enabling users to do group videos in Hangouts. After an initial flurry of sign-ups when it was put on general release, user adoption became an issue. It turned out that not many people were staying long enough to figure out how it worked.
A strict set of rules got it off to a shaky start. Users had to use their real names, businesses owners weren’t allowed to set up profiles for fear of deletion, and users were being locked out of other Google services for infringements. All very draconian. Then businesses were allowed a page but a confusing interface so far removed from ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ baffled many users. Just what does a ‘Plus One’ mean?
In 2013 Google then made it so if you wanted to interact, comment or leave reviews on other Google services, such as the Play Store and YouTube, you had to have a G+ account. Users of these platforms were up in arms that Google was attempting to boost G+ signups by piggy-backing off users and contributors to its other platforms.
In the years that followed, the more successful features like Hangouts and Photos were separated from Google+ and the company revoked the decision to tie the social media platform with YouTube and Google Play. Various attempts at redesigning the interface and introducing new features like ‘Communities’ didn’t really do anything to boost its flagging user base. In the end, it was all too messy and confusing. Online relationships shouldn’t be that hard.
Missing the boat
One of the issues in the online world is who is first at the party, and how well the party continues to entertain. Microsoft found this out to its cost with the demise of Internet Explorer. Once it was everybody’s browser of choice but it was neglected and was quickly overtaken by Chrome and Firefox. They were then playing catchup and even the release of Microsoft Edge, which is a half decent browser, could overturn the deficit that had built up by making people change their habits. Google has suffered in a similar way. Even on release in 2011, Twitter and Facebook had been around for four or five years and were already ingrained in people’s social media lives. Google trying to usurp that with G+ was always going to be difficult. In addition, Twitter and Facebook (especially) have consistently developed their platforms offering their users new features and capabilities. G+ always looked like it was being ‘messed around with’ rather than significantly improved.
Will we remember?
The final nail in the digital coffin came in 2018 and after a major data breach and around 50 million members’ private information had been accessible by third parties. It was then that Google admitted that not many people used the platform and that 90% of user interaction sessions were less than five seconds. Sadly, Google+ has now been consigned to The Google Cemetery. But, if you’re a business owner we can take heart: as a humble SME we try things that sometimes don’t work, and it can be disheartening, but even the global giants get it wrong. Even, Richard Branson when he fell out the sky in that balloon. RIP G+, coulda, shoulda, woulda.