Google Plus recently got its ten millionth user—yes that’s million, with an ‘m’—which is pretty insane, considering it’s only been around for a couple of weeks. Based on its astronomical growth, it would appear that it could really live up to its reputation as the Facebook Killer, becoming the dominant social network in just a few more weeks. There’s a problem with this theory, though. I’ve noticed something strange about Google Plus users: they’re willing to fight and claw their way onto the network, but once they get there, they just sort of…stop. Google Plus is currently the hip place to be (probably because of the air of exclusivity that Google constructed around it), but once there, nobody really does anything. Users might update a profile picture and post a single smug status, reveling in their position as an early adopter, but after a day or two most will simply forget about it. Everyone wants to have an account, but nobody particularly wants to use it.
hipster kitty was on Google+ back when it was still invite-only
Having explored on my own account more thoroughly than some, I’ve encountered some of the reasons why Google Plus is largely unused; for the most part, I’ve found it aesthetically unappealing and somewhat awkward to use. On the other hand, we all have the same complaints whenever Facebook makes sweeping changes, and we all tend to adapt within a week or so and ultimately forget that anything changed at all. So yes, if we all went cold turkey on Facebook and switched over 100 percent, we could certainly adjust and probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but as of now Google Plus hasn’t showed me any truly convincing reason of why we should.
Granted, Google Plus has some competitive features. The idea of Circles is a clever one; one of the biggest complaints on Facebook is that those crazy party pictures that you upload for your friends can also be seen by your disapproving boss and your conservative Aunt. Google Plus Circles automatically filter information to avoid embarrassing situations. Hangouts are another cool feature, allowing anyone with enough bandwidth to vidchat with dozens of friends at the same time. Google Plus is even moving into the social gaming industry, having had conversations with social media powerhouses like RockYou and Zynga. Objectively, it’s a damn useful website.
xkcd knows what’s up
I think the main thing that’s holding me back from fully converting (aside from the daunting task of transferring my vast archives of Facebook photos and memories) is fear. Google is probably the most powerful company in the world right now. They control the information that we see; they control the way we communicate with one another; they have access to literally everything that we see and do. The only corner of the Internet that they do not control is the social side, and now they’re moving in. If Google Plus successfully conquered Facebook, they would essentially own the Internet, which is the most ubiquitous force in all of our lives. Of course, Google has their whole Do No Evil policy, and they seem like a morally sound company—they pulled out of China despite profits that could have been made, because they refused to censor, and they’ve never given me any reason to doubt their ethics—but the idea of a single company monopolizing the most ubiquitous technological force in the world is genuinely scary to me.
Unfortunately for my worldview, the things that make Google Plus so scary will also inevitably give it the edge. Once you make an account, it’s integrated into all your other accounts, such that your Google Plus notifications are visible any time you check your email, or look at the news, or look something up. Based on the way things have gone, it doesn’t look like there will be any massive or sudden surge from one network to the other, but Google Plus has a universality and a tenacity that I don’t know if Facebook can match. My prediction? Facebook may be rendered just another Myspace before the year is out.