Google’s Previous Attempts at Social Media:
Before we jump into Google+ let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and reminisce about Google’s previous, ill-fated attempts at social networking.
Orkut was launched in 2004, a month before Facebook went online to students at Harvard. It was created by Google engineer Orkut Büyükkökten. It could have turned into what Facebook is today, but it appears that Google didn’t know exactly what it had and how powerful social media would become. While Google was still trying to figure out exactly what to do with Orkut, Facebook went live to the public in September of 2006 and the rest is history.
It’s not exactly fair to call Orkut a failure. It does have over 100 million users worldwide, but few are located in the United States. It is extremely popular in Brazil and India.
Never heard of Dodgeball? Don’t worry. You are not alone. Dodgeball was Google’s attempt at a mobile check-in network. It was acquired by Google in 2005 from Dennis Crowley.
Google had the right idea, but once again they failed to capitalize on it. Maybe they were just ahead of their time with this one. Four years later, as Google was shutting down Dodgeball, Dennis Crowley created Foursquare and again the rest is history.
Google acquired Jaiku in 2006. Jaiku was Twitter before there was Twitter. It had the same 140 character limit and many other similarities. However, Google gave up on it just around the time Twitter launched. Who knows what would have happened if they had stuck with it. Perhaps instead of Tweeting we’d all be Jaiking…or something like that.
I’d love to explain what Wave was, or trying to be, but I can’t. It was a mix of photo sharing, email, instant message and groupware put together in a very convoluted way. It launched in 2009 and was like nothing anyone had seen before and that might have been the problem. Google stopped new accounts from being created two months after it launched and deleted all existing Waves this past April.
Buzz was Google’s attempt at micro-blogging. It launched in February of 2010. It was very similar to Twitter except that it was integrated into Gmail. Buzz didn’t create much “buzz” at all and was shut down at the end of 2011.
As you can plainly see Google hasn’t had much success with social media. It’s not as if they didn’t have some good ideas, but they either gave up too quickly or didn’t realize what they had.
That brings us to Google+. There are now over 100 million users of Google+. That total is expected to grow to over 200 million by year’s end.
While its number of users continues to grow, the average time users spend on their Google+ profiles continues to fall. Last November users spent an average of 5.5 minutes a month on the social network. As recently as March of this year, that number had fallen to just 3.3 minutes. Compare that to Facebook whose users spend an average of 7.3 hours a month. That’s a huge disparity and Google will have an extremely hard time closing that gap.
Google+ is essentially Google’s version of Facebook, although it does incorporate the use of hashtags like Twitter.
Google has thrown a ton of money behind their social network in the form of marketing and advertising. While that has increased its visibility and grown its user base, it has yet to find a way to create an environment that can engage its users like Facebook does.
As of now Google+ has been the most successful attempt at social media for the search giant, but the odds of it being able to seriously compete with Facebook are long. While the gap in the number of users will most likely continue to narrow, it is the average time users spend on the network that is Google’s biggest hurdle.
How can Google get people to spend less time on their Facebook accounts and more time on Plus? That is a question that I am sure the brain trust at Google is trying answer. If they can’t find an answer then they don’t stand a chance at competing with Facebook.
There are some conspiracy theorists out there that believe Google doesn’t care how long people spend on their Plus profiles. They believe that all Google cares about is gathering as much information on their users as possible the way Facebook does in order to eventually deliver customized ads and increase their already large revenue stream.
While I have no doubt that Google eventually wants to use their users information to deliver individually customized advertisements, they have to ensure that their social network is around long enough in order to do that. The only way Google+ will survive is if a way can be found to create an environment that better engages their users.
While I don’t think it is likely that Google+ will ever seriously compete with Facebook, I wouldn’t put anything past Google. With their immense resources, talented engineers and the lessons they have learned from their past failures, it is possible they may one day become a minor nuisance to Mark Zuckerberg.
What do you think? Will Google+ ever seriously compete with Facebook?