It might be premature to bid a final farewell to Google’s latest attempt at social networking–the Google Plus Project. After all, it’s not even out of beta yet. And I don’t even have one of the exclusive invitations to try it out. But be assured, Google Plus will join the ranks of Orkut and Wave (remember the hype?) and anything else that isn’t Facebook. Here’s why:
Necessity. The lesson Google should have learned from Wave is simple: if an application serves no immediate purpose beyond what other services provide, it will not succeed. Sure, there are occasionally new tools that reinvent us, but in general, the truth is that we know what we need. We didn’t need the awkward marriage of chat and email that was Wave. And looking at the promotional presentation on Plus, I’m anticipating that no one really needs to “hang out” with multiple friends in a synchronous chat. Or tailor particular information for particular groups of friends. Check that last one: we do need this. Facebook is probably got this feature in the works already. Which brings us to the second reason:
Critical Mass. I’m not even checking the membership numbers for Facebook. My guess is that there are at least half a billion users worldwide. Am I really going to convince my social circle to migrate to or moonlight on another social network? Even if Plus were absolutely astonishing–and I’m not convinced it will be–there is simply too much user inertia, too much time invested, too much to do to even consider bailing on Facebook at this point. Right now, I’m wracking my brain to remember some alternative, startup social network that I signed up for a couple of years ago. It had some kind of aspirational name: Panacea? Got it now: Diaspora. I’ll start believing in Facebook alternatives the day someone tells me he “Binged” himself. Ain’t gonna happen.
I love Google. Really, I do. But for now, it might concentrate its efforts on the things it does best, such as indexing massive amounts of information and making it all available to the average Joe with a laptop, tablet, or smart phone.
Then again, I could be wrong. But Google Plus feels like another futile effort.