by Kristin Burnham

Google+: Users Need Better Social Network, Not Just Another One

Jul 01, 20113 mins
FacebookInternetSocial Networking Apps

For Google's new social network to s쳮d in the mainstream, it needs something innovative, something new and something better than Facebook.

In the days since Google launched its latest Web service, Google+, a lot has been said about the search giant’s new social network. Industry experts and bloggers have already touted it as a “Facebook killer” more times that I can count, and there’s a surprising number of people already singing its praises, regardless of some high-profile glitches.

It’s undoubtedly the exclusivity and novelty of it that has drawn such attention, as Google is releasing it in the same invite-only fashion it did with Gmail years ago. This time, though, it’s under a more powerful public microscope and Google has created an almost absurd demand for access to it.

Google+ invites were hot when the company first announced the social network on Tuesday. Then as more users signed up, Google suddenly shut down the invitation service due to what it called “insane demand.” And users are now auctioning off invites on eBay for a few cents up to $5.

Clearly, Google+ has struck a nerve.

And, honestly, it’s all a little confusing to me: the hype, the demand, the praise of the new platform. I’ve had access to Google+ for a few days now, and I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Another interesting bit worth mentioning: Google+ does not work with Google Apps accounts, which eliminates business users and anyone else with a Google Apps account.

Maybe it has something to do with my social network’s demographic, which is largely Gen Y. A majority of my network—my purely social network—joined Facebook in college when it first launched. These people have six-plus years invested in that site, which has essentially morphed into a digital scrapbook: the college years, post-college years, weddings and babies.

A number of my Facebook friends have said there’s no way they’d ever leave Facebook, and Google+ really doesn’t appear to be giving them any reason to even consider it. Gen Y just isn’t interested in Google+, which doesn’t bode well for Google, or its employees.

In April, a leaked memo from Google CEO Larry Page said that Google employee bonuses would be contingent on Google’s success—or failure—in the social media space. And since its first attempt with Google Buzz failed miserably, there’s a lot riding on the success of Plus.

Unfortunately, I think Google+—they way it stands today— is a disappointing redo. To achieve the widespread consumer adoption that the company is likely seeking—and to appeal to more than just the industry pundits and technology geeks who are obsessing over Google+—it needs something innovative, something new and something better than Facebook. Right now, with a few exceptions geared toward those technophiliacs, Google+ is merely Facebook in a different format.

I’m not discounting Google+ entirely, just yet. What Google+ does have going for it is its integration with other Google services, like Gmail and Android, as well as simplistic privacy features that appear to be luring fed-up Facebookers. And since this is Google+’s first iteration, there’s no saying what updates or tweaks may come later down the line.

Considering the excessive hype, the halting of the invitation process and the tech-heavy features intended to set Google+ apart from Facebook, I think they’ve missed the mark, so far. Users don’t want another social network, what they want is a better social network. And without anything drastically different, Google+ runs the risk of becoming just another notch on Google’s belt of failed social projects.