Thanks for your well thought out post.
This excerpt sums it all up for me...
"Not only did they waste however many millions by not finishing what they started, but they already had a shaky reputation as a company that abandons products (and by extension hangs users who commit time and energy into their products out to dry). Wave, Buzz, Reader, Orkut, Picasa, and now the grandaddy of them all Google+. "
Mashable has the top story out on Techmeme right now and it's about Google+ http://goo.gl/5lvJRM It paints a pretty negative picture of Google+ as a failure of epic proportions for Google.
I joined Google+ on the very first day it opened to the public. I may have missed a few days here or there, but I think I have posted every single day since it launched over 4 years ago. I've been very active on the site and truly believe that it could have been something great.
I think it's pretty obvious to everyone involved now though that Google has completely given up on Google+. Here are some of observations on 4 years of Google+ -- they are not all related and this is more of a rambling list than anything from someone who probably spent thousands of hours using the product.
1. Either you are all in or you aren't. You don't spend $100 million, $200 million, $300 million on something and then quit. I believe that when Google launched Google+, they were all in. All in means using every possible advantage and resource to compete with Facebook. Facebook's market cap is $264 billion. So unless Google spent at least double that, they were not all in with social in my book.
In the early days it felt like Google was all in. The company promoted Google+ like nothing they'd ever promoted. Bonuses were tied to it, they were leveraging their other successful products to promote it (Search, Gmail, Youtube, hell, even the Google homepage itself) -- but somewhere along the way they changed their mind and they were not all in. They gave up. They quit. If they were in for $1 billion they should have been in for $5 billion or $50 billion.
2. When Vic Gundotra left Google, that was it for Google+. Despite all the lip service about Google still caring about Google+, from that day forward Google had quit and were just salvaging what remaining value that they could get from the property. Vic carried the clout of Senior Management as Google and had a personal passion and conviction for Google+ like nothing I'd ever seen. Vic was publicly listed as Senior Management by Google on their management team page. https://goo.gl/ylL3DV Not only was Vic Senior Management, he was part of the "L Team" the very top Google Senior executives that worked with Google CEO Larry Page. http://goo.gl/ptZSB
I have no idea why Vic left Google. Was it Vic's doing because Google promised to be all in with social and then quit? Was it's Google's first step to begin downsizing Google+? One thing that was clear to me, Vic was all in with Google+. He was a passionate leader, promoter and defender of the product inside and outside of Google. I got to know Vic a little bit during Google+ and consider him a friend. We are now even Facebook friends here too. smile emoticon I think the world of Vic. Facebook should hire him.
Maybe someday before I die he and I can have a drink and I'll hear Vic's perspective -- maybe not though too, I'd suspect much of Vic's experience at Google+ is contractually undisclosable at this point.
One of Google's most senior executives who was one of the most passionate leaders for a product was replaced by who? Dave Besbris? Nothing against Dave at all, but if Google+ was going to have to fight to defend itself inside of Google it needed someone of Vic's caliber. Dave was not the visionary that Vic was -- he had no vision, no power, no access to the executive leadership.
3. By giving up on Google+ Google has likely permanently killed itself with social. Not only did they waste however many millions by not finishing what they started, but they already had a shaky reputation as a company that abandons products (and by extension hangs users who commit time and energy into their products out to dry). Wave, Buzz, Reader, Orkut, Picasa, and now the grandaddy of them all Google+. It was going to be hard enough to compete with Facebook as it was. By quitting early, Google lost what little goodwill they might have to seed something in the future. Who will ever take Google serious with social again?
4. Google is going to pivot now according to Bradley Horowitz. Their first pivot is with photos. I love all things photography on the web, but I think Google Photos has so many problems. I don't even know where to begin at this point. The first thing you need to be able to do with any photos product is effectively upload photos to the web. Google Photos has a bug right now that probably won't be fixed for several weeks that will not let you upload RAW files to the web. These problems should have been worked out before launch in my opinion, not now later. Google Photos doesn't recognize the EXIF keyword data with your photos which makes it far less effective in search -- something that Yahoo's Flickr has been able to do for a decade. Google Photos downsizes your photos while their competitor Flickr gives every single user a full terabyte of high res photos.
5. Another sign that Google was dead that came right about the time Vic left was the employee response to the product. As a top user I engaged with tons of Googlers almost on a daily basis when they were promoting the product. I saw their passion with Vic. They used Google+. They promoted Google+. They held photowalks with Google+. They were excited and engaged about the product. You could tell Google+ had died when you saw the Google employees themselves stop using it, stop promoting it, stop caring about it. It was like night and day, black and white. All of a sudden an army of Googlers who were using the product just switched off and went radio silent almost over night.
In the second half of 2011 when Google+ opened, Larry Page posted 48 public posts on Google+. In the first 7 months of this year, he has posted 3. If this is not the clearest signal of what Google Senior Management thinks of Google+ I don't know what is. Google's other cofounder, Sergey Brin has not posted publicaly in almost a year. What message does that send to people inside Google and outside of Google?
In the early days of Google+ I interacted with dozens of Google employees. Very few of those same people use Google+ any more today.
Maybe Google never had a chance anyways and they recognized this and cut their losses, but I really believed that they did have a chance and should have doubled down even when things got tough. It's still a good product. I will still post photos there every day most likely, but without the commitment from Google it will never be a truly meaningful social product. I felt like I got a good few years out of G+ social, sort of like I got a good year out of FriendFeed with social as well. Times and seasons for everything I guess. Google+ was a lot of fun for a little bit there though wasn't it?
Whatever the case, it is official. Facebook has won social. There will still be room for other minor social networks. Ello and Flickr are two examples that I personally think the world of, but big picture social? Yeah, Facebook wins -- and now they most likely get to reap the rewards of monetizing the world's most powerful social network for years to come, and maybe even the world's most powerful search engine too, when they eventually get around to launching that down the road. And now Robert Scoble gets to tell everyone I told you so. wink emoticon