It’s no secret that I’m a fan of what Google’s done with their latest product, Plus. Initial impressions of the service were good with the interface being clean and apart from the Huddle app experiencing some technical difficulties it was essentially bug free. It also seemed to be quite the hit with it gathering 10 million users in just 2 weeks, no small feat even for a tech giant like Google. I’ve been using the service ever since it launched to the public and now that we’re starting to get to the tail end of the honeymoon period for Google+ I’m starting to see some similarities to other social networks I once used, and that’s not a good thing.
When I first saw Google+ the first thing I thought of, and I wasn’t the only one to think this, was how persuasive Google could be in order to drag my friends across from Facebook. Now initial numbers were pretty good, with about 20% of my friends signing up in the first few weeks. They were all my somewhat technically inclined friends and I had expected the majority to come across in the early adopter wave. However the rest of my social network hasn’t shown any traction at all and in fact mentioning the fledgling social network to them draws blank stares. Thus whilst I was quick to see a good chunk of people come across the inertia for the regular user to jump ship is, at least at this point in time, still way too high.
It’s also become apparent that even these early adopters seem to value Google+ as a second rate candidate for their social networking. Whilst both my Twitter and Facebook feeds see dozens of updates every day I can’t say the same for Google+, sometimes going days without seeing anything new on my front page. I’ll admit that I too barely post anything to the service as most of my activities are automatically syndicated by way of in built APIs. There are of course solutions to this but unfortunately unlike WordPress, Twitter and Facebook which have rather elegant solutions anything involving Google+ at this point feels rather hacky. This may change once Google releases an official API and allows native apps ala Facebook, but since all my other technical friends aren’t syndicating their streams it makes me wonder if they’re that engaged with Google+ in the first place.
My anecdotal experience however doesn’t explain why Google+ is seeing such explosive growth. They hit 10 million in just a fortnight and managed to more than double that to 25 million just two weeks after that. By all rights that would seem to be an impressive number of people who were looking for an alternative to Facebook (around 5% of their users, give or take) but still a tiny number comparatively. Realistically it’s still way too early as whilst such traction is impressive it’s still very early days for Google+ and the real test will be if they can capture any semblance of that exponential growth in the next 6 months.
Google, to their credit, hasn’t been resting on their laurels since launching just a month and a half ago. Just recently they launched the games section of Google+ which includes a fair number of familiar titles. Whilst I haven’t had a play around in that section yet it does seem to be an almost straight up port of the games section of the Chrome Web Store. This isn’t a bad thing as it means that those looking to develop for the Google+ platform can already do so, just that it seems like a bit of duplication of effort even if Google+ and Chrome target different markets. Still initial reviews of the games service aren’t entirely positive but there is hope for future iterations that have tighter integration with the Google+ platform.
Google+ also seems to be sticking to its guns when it comes to being clear of privacy with it managing to avoid any scandals in that area. There has been the rather sticky issue of those users who didn’t want to use their real name getting booted from Google+ and subsequently losing everything attached to that Google account. This is really the only major issue that Google has faced with their network and whilst I can understand their position their reaction to those users has been rather heavy handed. Considering nearly all other Google services allow you to operate under a nickname many were under the impression that they could do the same on Google+. Whether Google will change this policy in the future remains up for speculation.
The next few months are going to be crucial for the ongoing success of the Google+ platform. They’ve definitely managed to make a product that a lot of people want however the competition they are going up against has a long head start, enough that such explosive growth looks like a drop in the bucket to them. Fortunately Google does seem committed to the platform with it being under heavy active development and it’s those improvements and additions to the service that will determine whether or not it becomes a viable alternative to Facebook.
If you haven’t yet got an invite to Google+ you can click here to get yourself an invite.
As I’ve confessed to previously I’m a notorious Sony fanboy. Whilst this was done initially out of a boy love that grew from the hours that I spent playing on my trusty old Playstation it soon took a turn in another direction. What I’ve come to notice from many companies is that they will release their initial product and then revise as it matures. Typically this means nothing but good things for the consumer, but more recently it’s taken a much darker turn.
I guess the first piece of kit that I bought as an early adopter would have to have been the Playstation 2. I remember eagerly waking up at an extraordinary hour to rush out to grab one as soon as the stores had opened. I wasn’t the first one there by a long shot and the price had even dropped from the ludicrous height of $750 to $720. After convincing my parents that I could afford to pay them back I picked my shiny new PS2 and a single game whilst parting with my debit card until it was all paid back. I had justified the purchase to myself because of the backwards compatibility, but the possibility of turning it into a fully fledged computer as well sealed the deal. Whilst I never got the kit (since it cost more than the console itself even after it had been released for over 3 years) I did work with people who had got them, and by all accounts it was a great platform to learn game development on.
My early adoption of Sony’s products paid dividends more recently when I purchased my PSP and PS3. The PSP came riddled with security holes that allowed me to run all sorts of homebrew applications on it (video streaming over WiFi being my favourite) and the PS3 came with backwards compatibility and card readers. It’s up for debated whether or not the premium I paid for these products, about $100 on the PSP and $400 on the PS3, are worth it but since I was going to make the plunge anyway they’re just value-adds for me, which is always nice.
This is not to say that my habit of early adoption for new tech hasn’t been without its pitfalls. A few years ago I was in the market for a new phone and it just so happened that Motorola had released their new slim RAZR phone. Since I had worked in retail for 6 years selling mobile phones I knew Motorola was pretty good at making your basic phones and with it being so slim it was an instant sell for me. The writing was on the wall when the first one I received didn’t recognise my sim card, and had to be replaced that day. The second handset did its job admirably but it was plagued with meta-problems like the sync software only ever working once and certain features, like the predictive text, going awry shortly after.
I remember one of my university lecturers showing me an image similar to this:
Image used under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2
Although this one has been trimmed to fit a traditional bell curve it still demonstrates the idea that around 16% of people are what you could call early adopters. What really got to me was the demographics that came with these percentages with the youngsters like myself filling the Early Adopters and Early Majority categories but rarely in the Innovators. It would seem that the big risk takers are in fact established firms and make their business from being on the cutting edge.
The pace of innovation that the IT industry continues to set is probably what keeps me in this industry. Anyone who knows me will tell you that if I’m not challenged for long enough I’ll start to shift my gaze elsewhere, something that has left me with an interest trail of jobs on my resume. Realistically IT is the only industry I could get away with doing something like this since the standards are always shifting, heavens help me if I tried this in accounting.
Not that I have anything against accountants…… 🙂