Tech Tips

Contact Brian Gongol with questions
Return to the main menu of tech tips
Go to Brian Gongol's homepage

Will Google Plus ever catch on?

Answered March 5, 2012

Google Plus (mp3)

Is Google Plus ever going to take off?

The shortest possible answer to this is: We don't know for sure, but if it doesn't, you can be sure that Google will continue riding it down in flames regardless.

Google Plus is essentially Google's attempt to harness the popularity of Facebook, but in an effort to feed their own internal database of information on you, the Internet user. Unlike Facebook, which has really just one main platform, Google's properties span the Internet.

Even if you're not deliberately trying to use their core services like the search engine or Gmail, it's virtually impossible to escape interaction with content on YouTube or Blogger -- both of which are Google properties -- and it's even more difficult to avoid a brush with some kind of ad served up by Google's networks.

And it all comes down to advertising. The more detailed a profile they can create of who you are and what you want, the better they can turn a profit selling ads targeted at you. By unifying their databases across all of the Google properties -- with the intention of getting you to take part by actively sharing more about yourself through Google Plus -- the company is hoping to make profitable use of your information.

The problem, though, is that Google is taking a mass-market approach to getting very detailed information. Facebook really blew the doors off MySpace because it was focused and more pleasant to use. But now, Facebook is so entrenched in the mainstream that it's probably not going to fall to a single competitor -- it's far more susceptible to death by a thousand cuts.

People are always looking for new ways to share things that interest them -- a situation that's clearly illustrated by the rapid rise of Pinterest. But "sharing" sites that present an alternative to Facebook are going to have to grow up either around specific interests, or through new ways of sharing. Google Plus may be better than Facebook in several ways -- its terms are friendlier, for instance, to people who don't want their pictures used without permission -- but none of them so far have turned out to be so compelling that everyone's rushing to get in.

So: Will Google Plus ever take off? Well, they have a ton of money to throw at that question, and a huge reason to get the answer right, so it's a bad idea to bet against it. And for most people who have some kind of Google account anyway, it's not a bad idea to at least stake a claim to your profile on the site, if for no other reason but to ensure that if you have something you want the Internet to see in a hurry, you'll already have a place to put it where you can be certain that Google's going to find it.

But until it finds something really special to do that isn't already being done by the competition, it's going to remain more of an experiment than a game-changer.