In 2006, 29-year-old Kevin Rose was really big stuff. The founder of Digg was running one of the biggest social media companies in the world, until Facebook came along. While Digg still puffs along with a small staff, and is still in the Internet’s Top 200 sites, Rose, who has invested in Facebook, Gowalla, and a number of other social web companies, stepped down as interim CEO in 2010. He left in March 2011 to found Milk, and app-development shop that was quasi-acquired by Google on March 16, where they will ostensibly join the Google Plus team. (Digg actually discussed a $200M sale to Google in 2008, but Google backed out.)
When I saw this news, I immediately thought, “Wow, this is the beginning of the end for Google+.”
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You may think I’m a little nuts talking about the beginning of the end of Google Plus, especially when I’ve completed a Lynda.com course on Google+, and numerous big-kahuna social media types like my friend Chris Brogan - who’s a pretty smart guy - have written entire books about it.
Here’s why I think Google’s high-priority social network is failing, fast.
After Amir Efrati’s February article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that, after sign up, Google+ users aren’t really doing anything much with the platform, a pretty stunning info-graphic really jumped out at readers - it was a diagram that showed the average minutes-per-user for all social networks in January 2012. Table A shows the breakdown, based on ComScore’s data, which does not include mobile usage.
Average Minutes of Use
Google’s VP of Engineering Vic Gundrota (effectively the “CEO of Google+”), responded by saying, “Not only is Google Plus not a ghost town, we have never seen anything grow this fast. Ever.”
And so the New York Times jumped into the fray, digging deeper into Gundrota’s metrics. Google shared a stat stating that 50 million of the people who created a Google+ account actively use their Google+ enhanced products daily, and that over 100 million people have signed up for the product.
The problem with Google’s stats is that they don’t indicate that “enhanced products” includes Google.com and YouTube, the #1 and #3 sites on the Internet. (#2, unsurprisingly, is Facebook).
“Realistically, the debate over how many people use Google Plus, how many real users it has seems almost irrelevant. Google is determined to make Google Plus work at all costs, even in the face of naysayers,” said Nick Bilton, who wrote the NY Times blog post on Google+.
Google’s take on their speed of growth is becoming essentially irrelevant at this point, regardless of what Gundrota says or what Google’s executive team believes. Google’s recent quasi-acquisition of Kevin Rose’s Milk team seems like a last-ditch effort to bring some proven social web talent to the Google+ team, which is admirable, but ultimately doomed.
Google is a fish out of water - they’re a great search and advertising company that is simply not good at making social media products used by consumers (or even B2B collaboration). Now’s the time to shutter Google+, and consign it to the dust-heap where many of their other social products lie (Jaiku, Google Buzz, and Google Wave to name a few), and allocate all that Google+ talent to doing what the company does best - selling a ton of advertising in a way that really resonates with its customers.