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Why Google + Will Win (garrettamini.com)
36 points by kadjar on June 30, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

You know, if all these different social networks just worked towards an open, federated protocol, we wouldn't have to play this game every few years.

Not nearly as much profit as "winner takes all", as long as you are the winner. This is of course what everyone believes in the outset, a bit like the prisoner dilemma really.

I'm still holding out hope that an open, federated web is Google's ultimate play. They've demonstrated (Wave, Buzz) that they're willing to sink resources into it. Maybe they think if they can get enough traction, they can force the other social networks to open up.

A guy can dream, can't he?

I think, if anyone's going to do it, Google's much more likely than Facebook, that's for sure.

They still have a big incentive not to, though.

Didn't they have just as much incentive not to when they released buzz and wave?

Buzz and Wave were different beasts in a lot of ways, although they're all in the "social" category.

My question is, why wasn't this federated from the outset? Could have made even bigger headlines if they were like "Hey, Facebook, here's you connect your users to ours. [link to wiki/doc/etc]"

I'd like that, too, but we probably won't see that until another 7-10 years from now. One of the reasons I'd like a fully decentralized (and anonymized?) network is that it would probably have enormous impact on society all over the world. It might even be the ultimate solution to start a revolution in China. None of the current social networks can help Chinese people the same way they helped other countries revolt.

Why is everyone being downvoted in this thread? On HN, "I disagree" != "I downvote".

Excuse the question; I've been on here for a couple months now and there isn't a down arrow on the website UI at all. I've tried a few android apps and they have down arrows but I wasn't really sure if they actually worked since points are hidden from view. Is downvoting just not possible without a greasemonkey script, but its still enabled on the server or is there something I'm missing?

You don't get a downvote arrow until your karma hits a certain level.

Ah thanks; that makes sense. I haven't felt any particular desire to downvote anything on HN anyway, I was just curious.

This is a frequently perpetuated HN myth.

My reason why Google+ will fail. No one but the technorati will care.

(this sounds snarky but I'm quite serious)

Everyone seems to think Circles is a game changer, I'm not so sure. While it seems like a considerable improvement over managing lists in Facebook, I really don't believe that people like my mom really care enough for this to combat the network effect that Facebook already has.

Similarly this is the only thing Facebook does. How long will it take them to steal any innovative interface ideas G+ has? Can Google really stay ahead of Facebook in this space?

I don't think Google+ is aiming at your mom for Google+. They're going for people who use Google products hardcore: mail, documents, messaging, news etc. Circles is innovative solely because it takes the idea of a list and makes it manageable. Facebook works for mom and pop because it solves their communications problem with their kids. It's easy to share photos and post little notes at your own convenience. For people who are working and have coworkers and friends on the list, circles makes it easy to keep one separate from the other.

Thats fine and maybe thats a win for Google. But if the battle is for the most relevant Social Network you're going to need to get my Mom (or at least my sister) if you're going to "win" it.

They'll win your sister by being there every time she logs into check her gmail and browse anything Google. They already have content and are building a network around the content versus building a network and hoping users create content.

There is a lot of things that Facebook won't do that Google+ can do. The reason managing friends lists in Facebook is so god-awfull is because Facebook wants it to be. There is also several other interface eccentricities put there to make the site harder to use in certain ways. The reason for this is to protect their user data and make it hard to corrupt or hide it and make it easy to expose it and add to it.

The bottom line is Google+ will probably serve ads programmatically, leveraging AdWords and other similar automated technolgies within the company. Facebook has nothing like this, it sells its user data to 3rd parties who could be doing anything with that data.

I'd just like to correct that last point.

Facebook doesn't sell any data about its users.

You are delusional. any data? Facebook doesn't sell any user data? Not only do they sell user metrics, they sell actuall user generated content.

They don't sell any data.

Shortly after the lists became hard to get to my usage dropped. Too hard to categorize my give a shit levels.

Time and time again we see Google make the same mistakes. They are tone-deaf as to why Facebook is successful.

Sure, circles will get plenty of usage in the Bay Area, where the people who built it probably felt if only they could build this one extra feature then people would come flocking to them away from Facebook. But this misses the point.

Nobody on Facebook, other than techno-geeks, have been clamoring for this. Are you the type of person who would consider deleting your Facebook account? You're probably also the type of person that will be interested in Circles. But, you also are the type of person that, unlike 99.99% of the rest of the population, can comprehend having a social life without Facebook being the glue.

Facebook is cool. Facebook gets people laid and lets you participate in more debauchery online once you have stumbled home drunk from the bar. It doesn't feel like a hospital room or a bathroom, it feels like a party.

If Google wants a chance to usurp Facebook's dominance, it needs to do so under a different brand. Repeat after me: the Google brand will never be as cool as Facebook.

More importantly though, it needs to figure out what Facebook is missing. No, Circles are not what Facebook is missing. There's certainly something that Facebook is missing, that the cool kids would want, but odds are whatever it is wouldn't pass the smell test of the type of things Google would consider building.

Imagine you are at a party. It's fun, the music is good, there is booze, and the people are good looking. What's missing? Google's response would be: "The music is hard to hear, we should upgrade the speakers." Facebook's response would be: "cocaine."

The reason Facebook has come up to where they are, after all, stems from the big brass balls they've had for pushing up against the standards of privacy and even decency held by society today, something Google has never and will never be able to (or should want to) do in return. This is why Google will keep fumbling around trying to "out-innovate" Facebook, and will fail again and again in spectacular ways. It's sad, but endearing.

This might have been true when Facebook was young and (somewhat) exclusive. But now when I think of Facebook I think of my dad looking up his old high school friends to see who's gotten fat, or my aunt posting baby pictures, or some guy I don't know posting links to youtube videos I don't care about.

"Cool" is the last thing that comes to my mind when I think of Facebook.

Sounds like you need to defriend some people

I guess what I'm getting at is that it would take an awful lot of cocaine for me to think of my parents as the "cool kids."

I do agree that it'll be tough to get luddites to jump ship -- but I see that as an overwhelmingly positive thing.

Facebook got cachet in the first place because of the early adopters, the same ones that are leaving it in droves.

Personally, I hope you're right and the coked-up party bros stay on facebook. Because I'm interested in using technology for reasons other than simply facilitating my offline social life.

But it seems unlikely. Imagine transposing your argument onto Facebook and Myspace just a few years ago.

Is that why your mom uses Facebook? Because it's so extreme, debauched, and envelope-pushing?

I actually have to agree with him to an extent. Most moms will sign up for pretty much any website that her kid is on (unless its some gangster rap forum or something). Similarly I think most 13-17 year olds will pretty much sign up for any website that the college kids are on. Popular social media site choice is really dominated by the decisions of 18-25 year olds.

The generation that matters isn't my mom's or my own for that matter. It's my younger brother's. And, yes.

I don't know why you're being downvoted since what you speak is the truth, but have an upvote.

Anyone who thinks the average person is going to start using Google+ instead of Facebook is delusional at best.

Just listen to those Google+ introductory videos. Who the hell talks like that? Friends being worth your time -- what? "Adding people to your life"? Are these people real?

Here's the real deal: Google+ is sterile and lacks originality -- it's just Buzz and GTalk with a new uninspired interface.

Being able to group people in circles with JS animation is only exciting to geeks. No one else gets off on contact/group management.

And i want to get away from this football field of people to a house with many rooms. G+ is the first social network i would consider to add my parents/relatives but i would never do this on facebook it is too open for that. And managing lists on FB is a pain...

Circles is one of the features that will get me away from FB. And i dont really care about the "cool kidz"

edit: what i forgot we will get away from the auto opt-in google will never do this again since the buzz-fail. Because everytime FB rolls out a new shiny feature i have to look around how to disable it like "auto tagging" ...

I can't say whether Google+ will "win", but your comment doesn't address the group video chat feature ("hangouts"). It's easier and better than anything else like it. I think that alone has the potential to get a huge number of people using the site.

Huddle is cool too, but requiring everyone to have an Android phone (and later iPhone) is probably a dealbreaker for most groups.

What circles enables is selective sharing and private groups in a less painful way. The larger my facebook circle is with a mish mash of people from different parts of my life, the less willing I am to share in general.

Young kids will want a way to do private groups as both 1) they get older 2) their parents and other adults hop on facebook--since it's not socially acceptable to say no to your mom on fb. And if google nailed that, I think they have a good shot, as what teenagers, rap artists, and technorati do now is what everyone will be doing in the future.

That said, facebook is a fast follower. Their response to how private groups and sharing could be enough to stave off google.

Here is a good follow up article about Myspace.


Article gives a good overview of the type of corner both Facebook and Google don't want to be in.


> If you already have a gmail account, you will soon have a G+ account.

But what is the penetration of Gmail? 200 million users? Every one of them could fully embrace Google+ and they still wouldn't have 1/4 of the userbase of Facebook.

For this reason I think point #4 should have been listed:

4. Android - Nearly every Android phone owner ends up with a Google account and, we can expect, in the near future that will also mean having the Google+ app prominently positioned and well integrated. At 500k handsets a day this growth rate alone will give Google+ a huge leg up.

> "But what is the penetration of Gmail? 200 million users? Every one of them could fully embrace Google+ and they still wouldn't have 1/4 of the userbase of Facebook."

Network effects and critical mass. It's hard to launch a brand new social network because people have a high impedance to creating an account on anything.

If 200 million people created a G+ account, how many non GMail users will follow simply because their GMail-toting friends are on this newfangled thing?

Facebook launched from an initial pool of users that's far smaller (just Harvard) - IMO Google's way of breaking the chicken and egg user-signup problem is pretty awesome.

To me, G+ feels a lot like the launch of Google Buzz. Technologist rushed in, Robert Scoble, Leo Laport, and Jason Calacanis immediately had thousands of followers. Each of there posts received two hundred comments but most non-techie users didn't get sucked in as much. Sure Google Buzz had a botched launched and a slew of privacy issues but those were not the only problems it had in attracting users attention.

Circles is cool but people already have difficulties with private direct messages. Also, people don't want to curate lists.

"In the beginning there was myspace" - not really. In the beginning, there was LiveJournal. And Friendster.

Pah, in my day we'd just email stuff to huge copy-and-pasted lists of the email addresses of everyone we knew.

"For a social network, MySpace was incredibly introverted"

Not sure I agree with this. In my experience there was a lot more friending of strangers on MySpace. It was sleazier.

Facebook already has circles. They're called friend lists. Adding UI sugar to make circles (if people actually wanted them) would be nearly trivial. For instance:


True as far as it goes, but I think more imporantly, it's instructive to consider which company did it.

My experience with G+ is a lot like Google Wave. It was fun for 20 minutes, then the novelty wore off and I found it cumbersome. For example Circles... my father has 3 e-mail addresses, and I need to add them ALL to the Family circle, thus duplicating him 3 times.

With facebook, individuals are one-to-one, but on G+ it is possible for them to be one-to-many.

As much as I hate to say, I'd rather use what I already have, and what all my friends have... facebook.

My experience with Google Plus is also like my experience with Google Wave but in a different way -- I think the service is very cool but the "slow trickle" invite system is making it mostly useless to me (what's the point of a social network when hardly anyone you know in real life is on it?).

If this plays out like Wave, by the time a critical mass of people I'm interested in interacting with are on the service I'll have lost interest.

For all the "circles" flying around, when I first heard about it I figured I'd be able to do some set-theoryish organizing via venn diagrams. But I can't.

Maybe I want to send a message to my "friends" circle except not this friend in that circle, and maybe I don't want a new circle for that new group but just for that message (or maybe I do want a new circle on the fly like that called "friends minus person" or "true friends" or something). Maybe I want to send a message to everyone who is in my friends group and my schoolmates group, but not people who are just in one or the other. etc.

And the feedback button on the circles page is stuck on "analyzing the page" so I have to come and post here. Edit: Looks like that was caused by a script blocked by noscript.

Sums it all up pretty well. The solution for Facebook is probably what Facebook will do anyway. But it won't work. You can't just patch up disruption onto your old technology/business model. You have to start from scratch to compete, and that's something Facebook can do, which is the beauty of all disruptions.

I know Google+ doesn't exactly look like a disruptive innovation at first sight, but more like a direct competitor to Facebook, but if Circles re-defines the game, then that pretty much means it's a disruption and it will take the path of that all disruptive innovations take, which is to replace the incumbent (gradually).

The thing is that Facebook is likely implementing literally everything that is on Google+ right now. If they launch every feature they have before Google+ goes public then the only advantages that Google can possibly maintain is integration with their other products.

While Google has made mistakes (I am still sore about them dropping Wave - I liked the Robot APIs + AppEngine) I agree with the author that supporting multiple groups (circles) is what most people want. I don't want my family to have to sift through computer science stuff, my technical friends to have to wade through my latest hiking pictures that now are just visible to my hiking circle - etc.

The design of Google+ is nice, but it has its issues. For one, how do I figure out which of these people is my girlfriend? http://i.imgur.com/V843H.png

I completely agree that you shouldn't have to hover over the cards to figure out what email address they are associating with each card. That's a huge blunder.

Actually, hovering doesn't reveal the email address in this case. I only see the "Sharing via email only" text, and I can't quite work out what determines whether or not I see an email address, some descriptive text (Google Talk? Google Profiles?), or nothing at all.

Easy - It's Mary Brown.

good read.

after all this talk about who will win, though, why don't we all just use what's best for us :) can they both exist simultaneously? i don't know, but if enough people like each of them, then why not?

The cool argument is the wrong way to go with why Google+ will fail. The real value that Facebook provides is information. Free and open information about anyone and while some people view this as an invasion of privacy they are kidding themselves. The reason Facebook has become so addictive is because of the things you can find out about people, different people who aren't necessarily your friends. I understand that people have this idea that they only want to share things with their friends and there is an easy and simple way to do that on Facebook, only add your friends. In reality we don't want to or really we don't mind that people who aren't our closest friends know the things about us we put on Facebook. Facebook's lack of "privacy" is its most valuable asset not only to their own business model but to their user base as well. As someone in another comment said its the college kids that push the adoption of sites like this and from my own perspective and that of people I know, Facebook's privacy issues have never been the big deal they are portrayed as by the media. Google+ is shooting themselves in the foot by focusing on creating "real friendships" and closed information circles because in reality the reason many people like Facebook is because of the openness it inspires.

A feature that I've seen a lot of the media cover as well, Hangouts, is one that while useful in certain situations I think displays how Google is missing the overall concept of social networking. Hangouts is a great feature if you're in a pinch and need to for some reason host a multi-person video chat but so is oovoo, another group video chatting fad. Its a feature that while nice is not a hook for many people and really doesn't relate to the overall theme of social networking. Social networking's goal is not to create the most realistic online portrayal of your life. It's really, from the perspective of the company, to make managing your network of friends easier and make connecting with them easier and more efficient. Video chatting is not the most efficient way to manage these relationships and is not a unique way to conduct it either as there are many video chatting services that are widely adopted such as Skype. While video is still an important part of our lives with streaming content and live broadcasts, in the sense of the video chatting it is more closely relatable to the phone call which we all know is not favored today like the text message. Which should tell Google something, we as consumers don't want "real relationships" on our social networking site. We want like the text message to have our social network be an efficient and fast way of sharing information, something Facebook has mastered.

Overall Google+ does not bring a bad platform as much as it brings an unnecessary platform to the table. Could there be a cult following by older people who want to strictly share content with their family members? Possibly but more likely than not I see this idea getting a long for a while on its Google name and then folding. The best application I see for Google+ would be a simple collaboration tool for small businesses through the use of group chat and video chat along with the rest of Google Apps.

Reason why none of that matters now: Zynga's crack-like games.

2008: You sign up for Facebook and are immediately bored. Then you discover pokes and inane surveys, and have some fun once a few friends are signed up.

2011: Facebook entertainment has become Zynga's click-slave crack-code, and that's what brings in the 'normals'.

Google+ is where Facebook was in 2008, but without the fun.

These are the first questions I had upon signing up to Google+, and to my knowledge they are unanswered:

* Where are my friends?

* How do I bring over my contacts from Facebook? (the Facebook --> Yahoo --> Google+ thing was ridiculous)

* What can I do for fun?

Google+ has exactly the same problem that almost every other Google product has had: its value isn't immediately apparent. It's amazingly opaque for a product that people hope will dethrone Facebook. Add to that the fact that there are none of the 'fun' things that Facebook has, and I fail to see how this is any sort of competition.

Where are my friends?

They seem to be showing up one by one.

How do I bring over my contacts from Facebook? (the Facebook --> Yahoo --> Google+ thing was ridiculous)

Ah, but that's exactly what I don't want to do. I want to start over with a friends list that contains people I actually like and am comfortable sharing stuff with, rather than a sundry collection of people I met twice plus folks I sorta-knew at high school plus ex-girlfriends I can't bring myself to defriend.

What can I do for fun?

So far it's mostly "talk to my friends". And that's not too bad!

Right now, G+ seems like a more "grown-up" place than facebook. If the market segments so that twenty-and-thirty-something professional types are primarily using G+ and facebook remains the hangout of choice for cow-clicking high schoolers and their grandparents then I'm fine with that.

It's fun to socialize. And a lot of that is talking with people, and spending time with them.

It's not the only kind of fun. But it's fun enough for G+ to be compelling.

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