Three months ago, Google’s new social service, Google+, launched to a limited group of selected invitees. Last week, it opened to the general public. But as Facebook announces 500 million unique users in one day, the big question remains for Google+: will it survive?
Google+ took off like a shot – adding 10 million users in just two weeks. On the one hand, this sort of adoption rate is absolutely astounding for any new social service. Most social startups would kill to have adoption rates like this. On the other hand, when you consider that Google’s Gmail service has nearly 200 million active users, it seems like a mere drop in the bucket.
Many of these initial users were the typical early adopters – those who jump into new technology and service with both feet, myself included. Many were drawn by the tight integration with other Google services, the high levels of privacy available to users, and the ability to organize contacts in convenient ways known as circles. In fact, I wrote about my initial thoughts on Google+ on this very blog.
The Honeymoon’s Over
After the new and shiny feeling wore off, I noticed that my own usage of Google+ diminished. I returned to my stalwart social efforts on Twitter and LinkedIn. I found Google+ less and less useful, largely because most of the early adopters simply recycled the same content. In short, the service resembled a tech-centric echo chamber for the Silicon Valley crowd. I found that I wasn’t clicking “+1” buttons – and didn’t know anyone else who was.
Then things really started to go down hill.
The frequency of the posts started to drop off, naturally taking the frequency of my visits down with it. As any social media user knows, growing stagnant is the single worst thing that can happen. As I visited less, I shared less. Fewer articles means fewer comments, and soon I had let my Google+ account go dark.
Abandon All Hope?
I will admit that I was close to giving up ; I considered shutting down my account and walking away forever. But, I recently saw three announcements that might just right the Google+ ship:
- Open to all. Now the diversity and frequency of the content has no reason to be constrained. Hopefully an influx of new users will provide that energy that was present only a few months ago.
- Google+ API. Google also announced the support for an Application Programming Interface (API) for Google+. By opening the service, and the content along with it, to anyone through an API, the number of ways to engage will continue to grow. Remember what happened when Twitter’s API allowed the proliferation of specialized clients and mobile apps? The same sort of thing is now primed for roll-out at Google+.
- Celebrity Support. Robert Scoble, likely the most respected tech and startup journalist in Silicon Valley, announced this week that he was staking his professional reputation on Google+’s ability to support the kind of social sharing and engagement that he depends on.
Only Time Will Tell
While Robert Scoble’s whole-hearted endorsement is certainly going to boost usage and engagement, only time will tell if enough other folks will put their social eggs in Google+’s basket. I’m willing to give it another shot, and have been using the service more; but if I’m the only one of my network there, I know it won’t last.
The first three months were a great chance for Google to iron out the bugs and for power users to figure out how this new tool will work in their personal and professional networks. Now, the real test is upon us – will enough people find Google+ worth their time?
We’ll find out together.