"Google+ is dead," proclaims Dan Reimold, writing for PBS MediaShift. "At worst, in the coming months, it will literally fade away to nothing or exist as Internet plankton. At best, it will be to social networking what Microsoft's Bing is to online search: perfectly adequate; fun to stumble onto once in awhile; and completely irrelevant to the mainstream web."
Ouch, Bing's really taking a verbal beating this week.
This is surely not the first time someone has declared Google+ to be dead. In fact, people have pretty much been saying it since the service launched. While it was pretty well received right out of the box, there were always those pointing to Google Wave and Google Buzz, saying that Google+ would just be another failure (though Buzz is actually still alive. I'd be interested to know some current user stats on that).
To be sure, Google+ faces an uphill battle in some ways. Facebook, the reigning king of social networks has not only made significant changes of late, which eliminate Google's edge in some areas, namely, the Circles area. It's basically just as easy now on Facebook to share things with select groups of people and know who you're sharing them with. You can even follow the public posts from people's personal profiles without them being your friend.
From the sound of it, it is Facebook that is really just getting started. The company's developer conference, f8, is this week, and Facebook is expected to make some major announcements, which add up to a profile redesign, making the user's profile a hub for content consumption - including music, TV shows and movies - and new buttons to accompany the "like" button. These will reportedly be "Read," "Listened," and "Watched." People love sharing the stuff they read, listen to and watch, and these buttons will probably be quite popular, and keep people even more engaged with Facebook than they are now, which is already a lot.
Google only just released its first Google+ API last week, opening the door for developers to make Google+ more useful. That will be amplified even more as Google launches more APIs for it. And it's not as if Google doesn't keep launching new features and tweaks for Google+ (in fact, they just announced more today). That hardly holds up to Reimold's Bing argument. Bing regularly adds new features too, but on the other hand, Bing does continue to gain market share month to month, as little as that may be.
Games will also get better with more API access. Then there's the fact that Google hasn't launched the brand profiles yet.
"To be clear, I do not buy the beta argument anymore," says Reimold. "G+ still being in beta is like Broadway's 'Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark' still being in previews. It has premiered. Months have passed. Audiences have tried it. Critics have weighed in. It is a show -- just not a very entertaining one."
It doesn't help things when media reports come out about CEO Larry Page not having posted anything to Google+ in a month. Of course, the fine print is that he hasn't posted anything public, and why should that matter? He's the CEO of Google. He probably has a lot of things to say that aren't meant for public consumption, especially given all of the government scrutiny the company continues to attract. That's why there's PR. But perception conveys something along the lines of "Not even Google is using Google+". That's certainly not the case, because I have a circle of Googlers, and many are very active.
That said, I log on to Google+ on a daily basis, and I don't talk a lot on it (that's mostly because my real friends are mainly talking on Facebook). I read things others have to say though. I see interesting content that they share. I use it basically like I've always used Twitter, and why neither has become a replacement for Facebook, I've managed to keep them both in my rotation. There is a whole lot more tweeting going on than Google+ing, however.
That's not good news for Google search. As you may know, Twitter and Google severed their realtime search ties. Google no longer gets that Twitter firehose to offer realtime tweets in any given web search. That sucks. Google wants to just use Google+ instead, and while that may be useful from time to time, it's no replacement for Twitter. Not by a long shot. It doesn't look like it's on pace to be anytime soon either. So that's another reason why Google needs Google+ to be successful.
Google doesn't need Facebook user numbers to be successful. If nothing else, Google+ can just serve as another way to keep people using other Google services more. As it continues to be integrated into Google's portfolio of products in more ways, it's just one more link in the Google chain. The profiles are in search results. It's not about how much content any person is cranking out on Google+. It's about identity. We've covered this before. Google+ gives you a way to share content if you want, but in the end, it's about identity, which means it's about the real Google profile - the Google account. I think Google is doing pretty well in numbers there.
That should help with Google's efforts in revolutionizing commerce, which just launched this week in a limited capacity.
Google+, the social element, is just a piece of a much grander picture. If Google+ fails, Google will just look for more ways to make the Google ACCOUNT cool. So far, Google has a pretty good track record with that. See: search personalization, Gmail, Picasa, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Apps, Google Reader, etc.
One last side note: eMarketer just shared an interesting graph based on info from Zoomerang, indicating that SMB decision makers in the U.S. use Google+ more than even YouTube and company blogs for marketing: