Google-

Peter Lewis / August 31st, 2011

 

Does anybody use Google+ any more? That seems to be the question floating around these days.

The Goog, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Google+ project made its debut two months ago and by the end of its first month had a user base of 25 million worldwide, becoming the fastest-growing social media network in the admittedly short history of social media networks, according to the digital business analytics firm comScore. Almost immediately afterward, Experian Hitwise, an online consumer behavior and marketing consultancy, began reporting that Google+’s rate of growth was slowing, and that the average amount of time Google+ users spent on the site was declining. Then the otherwise respected website GigaOm trumpeted the dubious results of a “voluntary sample of more than 10 million Google+ users” that purported to find “that a whopping 83 percent of Google+ users are currently classed as inactive.”

People are asking if Google’s flagship social media service is destined to follow the trajectory of Google Buzz and Google Wave. People are wondering if social media fatigue is a factor. For me, it’s privacy fatigue as much as anything.

The Sage

But back to the question: Does anybody still use Google+? As often is the case, I find myself in total agreement with Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there any more; it’s too crowded.” Millions of people use Google+. Millions more are waiting to get in. But I don’t go there anymore.

My enthusiasm for Google+ was never great to begin with, and it diminished after Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, explained that Google+ is really an Internet identity service with social media elements.

Schmidt, according to a transcript of a Q&A session at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, said that Google+ is “an identity service with a link structure around your friends.” In other words, it’s a product that helps Google sell ads more effectively by gathering information about its users. To that end, Google+ does not allow anonymity. It has a “real names” policy and requires users to provide traceable personal information. “It’s central for Google to have such a service,” Schmidt said.

We'll see you ... later

Asked how Google can justify requiring real names if doing so puts some users at risk, especially in unstable political climates, Schmidt said, “Well, the first comment is that Google+ is completely optional. In fact, many, many people want to get in. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to.”

By its own admission, Google developed Google+ as a more effective way to gather personal information from users and their friends that Google can then use to target advertisements more profitably.

Here’s what you signed when you signed up for Google+:

“By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”

“You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”

I’m taking Eric Schmidt’s advice: I don’t have to use it.

How about you? Has Google+ become an important part of your social life online?

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis has covered the tech industry since 1982 as a Senior Writer at The New York Times (where he personally registered the nytimes.com domain), Senior Editor at Fortune magazine, and professor of digital journalism at Stanford University. He is a veteran of two startups. One was named "Cool Company" of the year by Fortune, and folded six weeks later.
  • Anonymous

    What I see on Google+ is overwhelmingly either stuff I have already seen, most likely on Twitter, or stuff I have no interest in seeing. As a result, I look at it only infrequently.

  • Anonymous

    I think right now it doesn’t replace twitter or Facebook and its only real appeal to me is its like being in an exclusive social network just for tech lovers and early adopters. That is why the conversation is better in G+ simply because it is a better place to converse and right now its all early adopters.

    I don’t see the value to the mass market.

  • I accepted an invitation to G+ from a friend, “connected” with several other friends, and despite using Gmail daily, I never see anything from anyone that makes me want to participate. Some Google tools (gmail, blogger) invite participation because they add value. Others, frankly, don’t.

    Your privacy concerns add only one more reason…and an important one. But despite my concerns to the contrary, an awful lot of folks don’t seem to be as concerned about their privacy as they probably ought. The biggest reason for the flop IMO is that there’s no “there” there…

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