Way back on June 6th, 2012 in the third month of this here blog, I bemoaned the annexation of what was Google Places, by the then upstart social media initiative Google+. At the time I said:
“Google+ has enjoyed rapid growth with millions joining the platform, but there appears to be good data that although many join, the level or return visits and engagement is much lower than on Facebook. Given that, Google’s strategy of fusing Google+ with the very successful and highly used Google Places follows the Google Buzz strategy of essentially forcing a large number of users (in this case local businesses and reviewers) to join the game.”
And now, a few years later, even after they forced users and businesses to come, the party has never really improved. The good features they came up with — like the pics and video streams and hangouts — have been carved off the corpse, the leadership has gone, and we are left with a platform that doesn’t even require you to create a profile to use Google products like Gmail.
Although they haven’t officially stuck a fork in it yet, Google+ is clearly done. What contributed most to the demise? Well, it’s exactly as stated back in 2012: engagement (or lack thereof). I have a rule of thumb, the “ten minute test.” when I come across something interesting online, I dig in, then eventually end up deciding if I’m prepared to dedicate about ten minutes a day to it to stay engaged.
I’m probably a poor use case in the example of Google+, since I really don’t do much Facebook (let alone Google+). But what’s clear is that millions of users went there once, did what they had to do to keep using Google products, and never returned. The upside of that limited engagement was that it did get most of us permanently logged into Google in general, and it allowed Google to get a much stronger handle on local businesses in general. Beyond that, there simply wasn’t a compelling reason to keep folks going back. People are busy. Finding time to check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram takes time. It feels like most of us held an informal meeting and agreed not to participate.
The other problem with Google+ (aside from its weirdly un-intuitive user interface) was how restricted it felt. Google keeps a famously vice-like grip on its products, and Google+ somehow felt like a social platform designed by the Post Office; not fun.
In any event, Google is clearly unwinding the remains. It’s not a huge problem for most people as they weren’t using it in the first place. Some marketeers were exploiting the heck out of it, but I imagine even they will get over it soon enough. It’s another example of Google being fabulously great at a handful of things (most importantly search and advertising) and stumbling over many others. They always want to play, but they typically show up late and demand by sheer willpower to be allowed into the game. They don’t always win.