"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
October 1, 2014

Is the End Near For Google+

For a while Google seemed to have a big, mythical dream; one circle to bring together all its services – Google+. In a somewhat controversial process, Google set about making Google+ (nearly) mandatory for all users of its products. And, via the authorship programme, effectively shoe-horned bloggers and other original content makers into having a […]

Fernando Gros G+ Google+
For a while Google seemed to have a big, mythical dream; one circle to bring together all its services – Google+. In a somewhat controversial process, Google set about making Google+ (nearly) mandatory for all users of its products. And, via the authorship programme, effectively shoe-horned bloggers and other original content makers into having a presence on Google+ as well.

But now, things have started to change. There’s a steady stream of news indicating that Google might be rethinking their social media platform, including changes to the authorship programme.

While some people have managed to create vibrant communities on Google + (Trey Ratcliff, for example), most folks in my circle, so to speak, have found it difficult to get traction. A lot of those I’ve spoken to – folks who do social media well on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or SoundCloud – have really struggled to figure out what (if anything) Google+ does better than other services.

It’s perhaps telling that the only creative community strongly represented on Google+ is photographers. Google have had a keen focus on photography, from the acquisition of Nik Software through to their huge Google+ Photographer’s Conference. In fact, photos are probably the one area where Google have continued to innovate and the one thing Google+ does better than Twitter (and maybe even better than Instagram).

Or, at least that might have been the case if Google+ had ever been able to develop a really great mobile app. Using Google+ on an iPhone is still a painful experience, certainly when compared to Instagram. If anything, the ability of Google+ to handle photos is only really apparent when you start looking at big, high resolution images on a larger screen, like a laptop or desktop monitor. Which may well be why the photography community on Google+ skews so heavily towards professionals and serious hobbyists, the kind who still sport big cameras, rather than the army of mobile iPhoneographers who made Instagram so popular.

So, what comes next? I will continue, for the foreseeable future to automatically crosspost to Google+ but I don’t envisage actively using the service again. I’ve started using ello (you can find me at ello.co/fernandogros), but it is still very early days on there. IN a lot of ways, it’s hard to say what will replace Google+ because it’s still unclear to many of us what purpose Google+ ever served in the first place.

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Paul Fox (Foxlore) 10 years ago

I’ve heard similar sentiments coming from other G+ers over the past year or so. While it seemingly started out with great potential as a platform for publication and community development it has devolved into something of an enigmatic space now. For myself and many podcasters ‘Hangouts’ was an exciting feature to be sure. But a constantly changing interface, weak compatibility with other video / audio tools, and frequent censure by YouTube because of bot-spot infractions that are not actually infractions, has really killed it.

Even most G+ communities that I still subscribe to are just reliquaries for specialised photo posts or news articles, but very little discussion is actually going on. I keep wondering if the age of social media is now in decline. With advertisers and marketers taking up so much space, young people are more keen on direct channel communications like Line and Snapchat.

There is also a question of communicative etiquette, that created challenges (at least in my mind). For example, take this post. When I see it on G+, I can put this comment there, perhaps directing some attention to it by those that have circled me. But it seems more appropriate to post directly not he blog and help develop the conversation on the actual site of content. Perhaps I could double post, but that somehow seem redundant and / or improper, as if I am trying to get my own voice to stand out.

I still wonder if there is a new, better solution out there. To be sure I still use many Google tools for teaching and I try to tie my classes to a specific G+ community as well, but time has proven that this is the least actively used among my students. Maybe I should post my notes as Snapchat photos. 😉

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Paul – you’ve raised a lot of good, practical issues. As a blogger I certainly have a frustration that comments get scattered across the web. While some comments on Twitter and G+ are just fly-bys, where people take pot shots at the post’s title without reading the text, there are also good thoughtful comments that I wish were available to other readers of the post.

Which does come back to the question of what G+ did well – because while I saw some good comments on there, at lot of the interaction was snarky. In many ways, G+ felt more like a forum, than a social media platform.

And, if I was teaching now, I would certainly be using SnapChat, especially for updates, reminders of assignment due dates and sharing images from classwork.

Randall 10 years ago

I heard a comment the other day that most social media sites start out with pretty good communities with people behaving themselves and working towards good community, then they degrade over time until they are just sad remnants of cranky people. That feels true to me.
I was just thinking the other day what’s to become of Google+. Seems to have aged so quickly.
I’m interested in checking out ello.co. just in line for an invite from them.

Good post Fernando, those were words I was thinking.

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Randall – I think there is something in that. Early adopters tend to have “noble” goals. This was true not just in social media, but in the early days of blogs, forums before that and listervs before that. It might sound elitist but something happens when a digital platform becomes mainstream that seems to draw excessive attention to the negative.

BTW, I’ve sent you an invite to ello *_^

Toni 10 years ago

“folks who do social media well on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or SoundCloud – have really struggled to figure out what (if anything) Google+ does better than other services.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only people who actually USE G+ are ‘professionals’ that use social media platforms for personal branding or advertising themselves to others, a bit like a shopping mall where the only people who visit are the ones running shops.

As a platform it was too unintuitive for the un-technical, too corporate for the libertards, too clean for the Tumblr porn brigade and generally not exciting except as a place with tools for self-publicising. The way comments to posts on linked blogs also appeared on G+ was downright uncomfortable: that certainly discouraged me from commenting on a couple of blogs, and I may not be alone. And then there are the issues regarding privacy and the user being the product with Google (just as they are with Facebook, but once bitten etc). Cross-posting from blogs to G+ for me personally wasn’t useful; I’d read the blogs anyway by visiting directly (feeds make me feel too disconnected from the person actually writing – it’s the person that’s important, rather than just the words). I never linked my blog.

So I’d keep coming back to G+, take a brief look, end up shaking my head and moving on after a minute: there’s nothing for me there. Can’t say I’m surprised they want to wrap it up.

My own experience with social media has been to focus on the small, slightly rebellious and fun side of things. I spent about a year with Diaspora, starting just before G+ borrowed the Diaspora design. Initially it was very interesting, with a small and rapidly growing community that was fairly close-knit, but as it grew along came the agressive and the pornographers: they were much more influential in the way the community was shaped that the guys coding, who had been through several major crises of their own. I since moved to Libertree with some of the other ex-Diaspora people, and have been part of that community ever since – it’s still in Alpha, and unlikely to make it to finished code base because it isn’t a product.

So it will be interesting to see what happens with Ello.

My suspicion is that it will follow the path of Diaspora initially, but being VC funded, will HAVE to keep a lid on disruptive elements in the community until they can find a way to either exit or fund by some means to give the VCs their profit.

While writing this, I am reminded of Harmony Central. They were purchased by Guitar Centre who recognised the incredible potential of a music forum that behaved like a social network, and with hundreds of thousands of users all contributing original material and supporting each other. Unfortunately they also discovered that much of what went on wasn’t corporate-friendly, and a combination of several ill-considered forum software ‘upgrades’ and a PG13 censorship of conversations has pretty much killed the forum side of HC now.

I would guess that Ello will never become another Facebook, because social networks are now available in many places, but the only way to connect with almost the entire world is through that one network, and it seems there is nothing that FB can do that will actually annoy it’s users enough to make them migrate somewhere else. There will always be room for another small, intimate network, but that’s probably not going to provide a profit. I have, however, requested an invite.

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Toni – that’s a great comment! I agree very much with you and especially your comments on G+. At the moment the activity I see there is almost all a)photographers who market (lessons, workshops, books) to other photographers and b)social media and marketing professionals discussing the minutiae of social media and marketing.

Matt Brandon 10 years ago

So how is ello working for you? What is their policy on copyright and posting? Do they claim to own your images and your text? I have noticed that over the years and especially this past year, that I am getting less and less people posting comments on my blog and more and more folks posting comments on Facebook. Just wondering if it might be feasible to thing one could host a blog of sorts on some place other than a blogging platform. Just musing.

Fernando Gros 10 years ago

Matt – Ello is interesting, from an early-adopter-advantage perspective. It seems to be well suited to sharing images. They make a lot of noise about privacy, zero-tolerance of hate and the ability to opt out of data collection. But, the lack of clear statements about copyright, coupled with plenty of statements about how your data will live on in their servers even if you delete you account and their attempt to above themselves of responsibility for how your content gets re-shared are all ominous.

I don’t really know what the answer is for comments. People comment where they see the post. I’ve had some comments on ello, but I know when the site dies, they will evaporate, just like the comments I had on Facebook did when I deleted my account there and the way they will eventually on G+. Besides, the most used form on commenting on this blog has always been email.

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