Monday, August 3, 2015


A DOOM FORE CAST are some pretty ominous four letter words people have been casting against Google+ lately.

It's been a while since my last blog entry - most of my long-form posts have been on Google+. You may have heard of it. It is a social layer social network thing from Google that I've been using, and enjoying for just over four years now.

Yet four years ago this week, I had to stop using it because the Google+ "real name" policy challenged the name I had used for over 20 years. I fought to keep my name... and mostly lost. I returned to using the name on my driver's license, and "Prisoner" eventually became my nickname.

Over the past four years, there have been a lot of changes at Google+. The most recent announced last week, but forecast for quite some time - Google+ was changing its focus. No longer the hub to integrate all Google products, forced integration with other systems would be undone. Users wouldn't be forced to get a Google+ profile unless they wanted to actually use Google+. Google+ itself would become... well... a BBS, it sounds like.

But that, itself, isn't the doom I predict.

Four years ago, I predicted that Google+ would have issues for two reasons:

  1. It needed to present a "compelling reason" for people to use it. Not even to use it instead of something else - to use it at all. Good integration with the rest of Google's products might be that compelling reason, if they did it correctly.
  2. The Google+ Profile was a significant burden, particularly when a user would be forced to use it just because they want to use other Google features.

Most people in evaluating Google+ these days focus on the first reason, along with the poor integration with nearly every Google service. But integration wasn't the real problem - we see many Google services integrating with each other - just not with Google+.

I think the real reason behind Google+'s problems were actually with the second point. The Google+ Profile, and especially the "real name" requirement, caused (and continues to cause!) people to not wish to use Google+. It prevented brands from jumping into Google+ in the early days and early tech adopters (including many Google employees) from taking Google+ seriously. This eventually lead to the "ghost town" narrative, which was a self-fulfilling prophesy for those who espoused it.

And here is where I bring about my prophesy of doom.

I think Google+ could, theoretically, survive in its new form. I think the integration angle was a better one if they had done it correctly, but as an interest based platform it might survive. I think it will be a real challenge, and the team needs to really bring some stand-out features to give a "compelling reason" people would want to use it, but I think it has a chance to be a modest success if they build it right.

Unfortunately - I think they're starting off on the wrong foot by continuing to require the Google+ Profile. In fact, the only service which will require the Google+ Profile... will be Google+ itself.

While it seems a contradiction - this makes no sense. Requiring people using a (hopefully someday) glorified message board to have a very specific and narrow set of information they must present to ask questions or participate in discussions undermines the nature of many of those discussions. There is a reason that Google Groups, which has been around far longer than Google+, lets people choose what name to use for each Group and mask their email address in some cases. There is a reason that game boards let the participants use the name they use in-game and not the name they use at-work. There are reasons that message boards have evolved the way they have, and Google+ has to understand all these reasons before they try to one-up them.

And I wish them luck. I really do. Google+ had so much potential, it's a shame to see it all... well... CAST AWAY.