It's now a week or so since Google launched their new social networking product, Google+, so here are some early thoughts.
I wanted this to be a Facebook killer, for obvious reasons (Blimey, that blog post is four years old!). There was a glimmer of hope shortly after Google+ launched that it might even meet these high expectations - the essential early adopter geeks were arriving en masse, and reporting that it was a great user experience. And sure enough, adding people to 'circles' - creating groups to target your messages - is pretty compelling.
But then what? Unfortunately, first time user experience isn't a good reflection of how well it'll fit into your existing daily activity. This is where Twitter in particular has been so successful - you can dip in as frequently or rarely as you like, wherever you are (especially in a mobile environment, where you might just want to kill a few minutes).
But there are some fundamental shortcomings with the new Google+ product. I should say that, being a Twitter advocate, I consider the lack of features to be a strength. And to be fair the user interface is pretty and functional. But put simply, "the same, but better" isn't going to be enough to bring a critical mass of users over to a new platform - or especially away from existing ones. It worked for Twitter and Facebook because they were sufficiently novel. For Google+, a high enough percentage of new users needs to arrive at the same time to have a chance of success. This is one area where beta testing will not work. By limiting the initial roll-out in the way that they did, and by not having a strong enough mobile story from the get go, I think they've lost the opportunity to launch a winning platform.
Yes, I know there's an Android app. But there's no iPhone app, and the web app doesn't cut it. Say what you like about closed platforms - this will seriously hamper adoption. And there isn't a public API either, which means no desktop apps, making it difficult to integrate Google+ into my working day. I basically have to remember to keep going to the website. The far more attractive alternative is that I keep using my desktop Twitter app and iPhone twitter app, both of which critically already contain the friends and colleagues I care about.
Of course the API and native iPhone app will come, but that's too little too late. The chance has gone for me and, I suspect, for many others. And I can't help but notice that none of the people I'm connected to on Facebook that I'm not connected to on Twitter have joined. And why would they?
I'm sure Google will continue to invest in Google+, just as they seem to continue supporting Buzz (no idea why!). But it'll take more than group video chat and some interesting Feedback tools to persuade people back en masse. Even the commendable 'liberate data' feature won't be enough.
Some bonus links: