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It’s not been a great week for Google+…

OCTOBER 7, 2011

First came a report – “Failure to Launch: Google+ Growth Spurt Short Lived” – indicating that traffic on the new Social platform dropped fairly dramatically after a surge when the site went into public beta.  Key excerpts:

Although able to boast 25 million unique visitors after only four weeks of operation, Google’s newest attempt at a social network saw its user base dwindle as shown by a recent article from Chitika Insights.

Reportedly, Google+ saw a surge in traffic of over 1200% due to the additional publicity, but the increased user base was only temporary, as was projected in an earlier insights post.

The data shows that, on the day of its public debut, Google+ traffic skyrocketed to peak levels. But, soon after, traffic fell by over 60% as it returned to its normal, underwhelming state. It would appear that although high levels of publicity were able to draw new traffic to Google+, few of them saw reason to stay.

Despite its striking new interface, rapid release of new features, and focus on user interaction, Google+ does not seem to be able to drive unique visits in a sustainable fashion. We believe there are two driving reasons for this lack of interest:

  • The supply of users for social media sites is limited. To survive you must stand out and provide a service that others do not.
  • Features unique to your site must be just that – unique and difficult to duplicate – if they are not, the competitive advantage quickly disappears.

OCTOBER 10, 2011

Next, Mashable picked up on the story and published a post about Chitika’s findings.

Here are some of the highlights from that post:

But is Google+ a hit or miss? It’s hard to say.

Meanwhile, Chitika’s findings — likely a representation of traffic patterns and not a wholly accurate reflection — seem to suggest Google+ may not be convincing new users (or even Google executives) to stick around.

OCTOBER 11, 2001

The next day, Google+ VP of Product Bradley Horowitz was interviewed by regarding the state of G+. Here are a few of the highlights:

Horowitz added, “If I had to say what fraction of Google+ is launched right now, we’ve just got the very basic foundation in place. Profiles, circle editor and stream, that’s sort of the minimum viable set of features that you need to start doing interesting things.”

As for whether Google+ usage is fluctuating or falling, as many watchers have speculated, Horowitz brushed them aside, saying external measurements can’t grasp the “dark matter” of Google+.

Horowitz asked for observers to have a little patience while Google+ is being built, saying the project was never intended for such a large audience or so much scrutiny at this stage.


Next, one of G+’s own accidentally posted (on Google+, ironically) a rant in which he criticized Google from bottom to top on its handling of +, even calling Larry, Sergey and Eric out BY NAME (ouch). Here are some of the highlights of a post summarizing the rant published at

Last night, Google engineer, blogger, and frequent public speaker Steve Yegge wrote an epic rant about Google’s inept handling of the Google+ platform. His primary message: Google+ is not a platform like Facebook. It’s trying to dictate the direction of Google+ instead of opening up to developers and letting them show Google what makes sense and what doesn’t.

He posted the rant on Google+, but forgot to turn off the “Public” sharing option. It was only meant to be shared internally at Google.

That one last thing that Google doesn’t do well is Platforms. We don’t understand platforms. We don’t “get” platform.

Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don’t get it.

The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call.

Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work.

The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them… You can’t do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don’t have a Steve Jobs here. I’m sorry, but we don’t.”

Like I said, NOT a great week.


That being said, where does that leave us re Google+?

Are these simply growing pains, or perhaps the early stages of another epic Google failure…dare I say the second wave of Wave?

I have a few thoughts on the matter, as follows:

On the plus side of +:

  • The first part of Google+’s API was released less than a month ago on September 15. So, the impact of that release on the platform has yet to be felt
  • Business pages have yet to be released. I think it’s only logical that there will be another spike in activity when that happens
  • Neither Rome – nor Facebook – was built in a day. I think they’ve done a lot sort of wrong (not having business pages up yet, suspending accounts, naming requirements, problems with people who have multiple Google profiles, taking so long to get to public beta and to release API, etc.) and yet, without a hard launch, they HAVE enjoyed a lot of success (and, unless it’s posturing, which I don’t think it is, + has been a lot more successful than even Google itself expected)
  • Hangouts have become a ritual for me. I truly love them (but, as I write this, I sort of feel like I just said, “I bought the new Mercedes because it had an awesome stereo”)
  • So what if they had a big spike at public beta and then things went back to normal. Isn’t that what you’d EXPECT to happen? Many people rush to check out the latest shiny object, then put it down and circle back later to see what it’s really all about

On the negative side of the ledger:

  • I think it’s logical that there would be a spike when + entered public beta on September 20. That the surge was so short lived is a little surprising
  • Horowitz’s comments quoted above were eerily similar – no, let me be honest, they were IDENTICAL – to the things he said in my presence almost exactly two months ago. I must admit a little surprise at hearing him singing the same tune two months down the road from when I saw him
  • While + DOES have some awesome, original features, has it differentiated itself ENOUGH for people to see it as unique wis-à-vis Facebok?
  • Like it or not, we live in a “nanosecond attention span world.” Continuing my prior point, it feels like + may not be moving fast enough to differentiate itself and or get past this “aww shucks, we’re new and we’re just getting started, give us more time” mode. Stop and consider all the OTHER amazing stuff Google has created (I won’t bore you with the list; you already know it). To hear them sound somewhat sheepish just doesn’t feel like the Google I thought I knew. Maybe Yegge is on to something after all?


Having said all that, I will leave you with this, a comment I left on Google+ in response to the posting of the 60% drop in traffic referenced above:

I think I might be a somewhat “typical” G+ case study: I came here, I got the hang of it (at least a little bit), I liked it…and now I am using it less and less. And I am doing so for PRECISELY the reasons I knew I would: because I am spread WAY too thin from an SM perspective. For most people with normal lives and careers, you ultimately have to make a choice with the limited time one can devote to these things: where am I going to invest my time Socially? For me, it was and will always be Twitter, first and foremost. Number two is Facebook, because “that’s where the people are.” And I think it will take a LONG TIME for the masses to migrate to G+, simply because most non-geek/non-tech-savvy types are stuck right where they are simply because Facebook ain’t broke. And if Facebook ain’t broke, why fix it/leave it? That’s my two cents…

And, just to be clear, I have NOT given up on Google+. I tend to be obsessive/compulsive on technology, so I could EASILY see myself getting more into + in a big way at any time (but that alone says something, doesn’t it?).

So, what do YOU think?