It’s been less than 10 years since the initial rise of Friendster, the first mass-popularity online social network. Since its rise and (lamentable) fall, MySpace has grown and shrunk, and Facebook pioneered an ever-upwards trajectory. Though the implementation and particular social networks harnessed in each of these cases has been different, all have shared a similar initial launch strategy – focusing on the tightly-knit real-life networks of young people. For this reason, it’s become something of an article of faith that this is how social network services do and have to build and grow.
This is the core of Henry Copeland’s skeptical take on Google+, which I encourage you to read if you’ve not yet done so. I’m on record as saying that Google+ is already a success, and Henry’s post has clarified for me exactly what I meant and where I see it going. Henry’s main points are that (and I’m paraphrasing here – do read the whole thing):
- community is the value, not the interface
- you can’t grow a social network from the top-down
- elite, diffuse users are the wrong initial population
- Google doesn’t know social and doesn’t have the patience to grow a social network
That secret weapon is everything that Google has that is not Google+. A formidable armada of Google products including Gmail, Picasa, Calendar, Docs, Maps, Search, News, Youtube, Chrome Web Browser, Blogger, Translation, Android, and more stands at the ready to assist and join Google+ in the battle for the future of social networking. These products are best in class, extremely difficult to replicate, and are used by more than a billion people across the planet. As these products are seamlessly integrated with Google+, we are about to witness an incredible two way explosion of value and utility. Google’s products will gain all of the powerful attributes that social networks deliver – virality, discovery, crowdsourcing, sharing, “liking”, and so much more. Meanwhile, Google+ will be given a steroid boost of products that deliver content, tools, and capabilities to its hungry hordes of social minions.
“Its unique opportunity to be pervasive enough to be part of Google’s entire ecosystem makes it tremendously powerful.”
Anyway, it’s clear Google has turned a corner. They have now proven to everyone that they can do social and get on the playing field.
But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mom to use it and that’s just fine with me.
That all is a long way of saying that I really love Google+ and I don’t care what the average user thinks of it. I’m getting a ton of utility out of it and I am having a blast with it. Hope to see you there soon, but please leave yo momma over on Facebook, OK?
In point of fact, my mom will actually like Google+ just fine, but Scoble’s point is a good one and flows the other way, too. There are plenty of “average users” who will like parts of what Google+ does just fine, and won’t give a fig that Robert Scoble and assorted other nerds (e.g., myself) are using it for if it can help them chat, share pictures, and video chat all in the same place easier than they could before with just gMail, Facebook or Skype. Does that count as “beating” Facebook? I don’t know that it’s that simple – I expect Facebook to be around a while, but not at the current level of buzz or valuation – but if Google+ can give a better and more holistic social experience for its users, I would count that as a victory for everyone.