Yesterday Jason posted an interesting article on the Launch side called Why Google+ Will Take Half of the Social Networking Market from Facebook, in which he points out six reasons why he thinks Google will be successful with G+. While I agree with some and disagree with others, I thought it would be nice to get my view of the future.
Google Will Take Over the Whole Social Networking Market
How about this? Google has the potential to take over the whole Social Networking Market! Yes, this is absolutely possible! We have already seen this happen with MySpace and Facebook ($35M vs. $80B). And we have seen it Google doing it at the beginning of the century. But the keyword here is “potential”! Whether this will happen or not only time will show, but here is what makes me say that they have the “potential”:
- For the past 10 years Google has dominated the Web with their search and services. Although the prediction is that search will plateau soon it is still growing and Google has the lion share of it. More searches means more users, and more users means more potential.
- Google knows how to get users on their platform. Take for example AdSense, or Gmail, or Google Docs, or Analytics. All those services had tremendous success, and continue to do so. Although they had some failures lately with Waves, Orkut and Buzz they still have the potential to create good service.
- Last but not least, Google has the money to compete. With $30B in revenue and $8.5B in net income in 2010 they are ~15 times bigger than Facebook (with their estimated $2B in revenue and $600M in net profit – see Facebook 2010 profit? Try $600 million on MSNBC). What this means is that they have the luxury to try-and-fail much more than Facebook.
What Does Google Need to Take Over the Social Networking Market?
Yesterday when I logged into Google+ my first reaction was: “It looks exactly like Facebook!”. The UI, the wall, the profile – absolutely the same. Then I discovered the circles: “Yeah, this is useful!”. But couple of new features, few UI improvements (honestly Facebook drives me crazy with their UI) and better control of personal data will not drive adoption of Google+. Things that will though are:
- Get rid of the invites. People read all over the web that Google is releasing their “new” social network, and are excited to see it but if the only thing they see is “Check back later” they will either forget about it or will be VERY disappointed to see that it is “just like Facebook”. This worked well for Gmail but there was an significant advantage over other web based e-mail services - it was offering tons of space FOR FREE. The same with Google Docs and Analytics – it was offering the same functionality FOR FREE. Facebook is already FREE, and this cannot be differentiator in this case. Keeping it closed will not increase the desire (like the Gmail case) but may fade out the curiosity.
- Add additional value to my social graph. People are already sharing links, pictures, and videos. Nobody needs one more service for that (although from Google). What else can Google+ offer the users that Facebook doesn’t offer yet, and that will make them switch (or at least use both)? Hangouts? Not bad! But is that all? I am not giving suggestions but I am sure there are tons of things that can be done here.
- Integrate with the other social networking services. I am sorry Google, but even Facebook integrates with Twitter and LinkedIn (and doesn’t just have links to those in my profile)! I know it is hard to overcome the feeling that Facebook will “own” your data but if you want users you better do it. We live in an interconnected world, and keeping my data for yourself (i.e. living in your own box) may not be the right strategy. If I am willing to share it with you I will be willing to share it with others too or not share it at all.
- Make it easy integrate Google+ on third party web sites. Some people will say that this is following Facebook (and Twitter), and my answer is: “Yes! You are already a follower! Get it out ASAP! You know already how to do it!” Google+ buttons started appearing on the web sites but if Google doesn’t allow developers to build on their social platform (think Zynga and their contribution to Facebook success), and if they keep it closed to Google properties only their “success” will be limited. If Google puts G+ in users’ faces on every web site then they will start using it (somebody remember AdSense?).
- Roll it out on every mobile platform. Don’t tell me that Google+ will be available only on Android phones! There will be two more years before I buy my next phone, and you are very optimistic if you think this will be an Android phone. And this is the case with… lot of users around the world. Even if IDC predictions are correct there will be still 56% of mobile users who won’t use Android in 2015. Are you willing to give up this market?
- Improve my experience on the web. This is the area where I think Google can go the extra mile. With billions of users who search the web every day, Google is the best positioned to make a difference what content users consume, and eventually how do they consume it. But wait! I know what you are thinking – you can use my Google+ data to improve the search results on the web. Do that but for MY OWN search results. PLEASE, don’t use my Google+ data to improve the search results for other people (even my own friends) – I really don’t fit into the statistically representative sample, and this will totally screw their results.
Will Google+ Really Take Over Half of the Social Networking Market?
I doubt! 20% – yes! 30% – maybe! 50% – I don’t think so! Why? Here a few reasons:
- Company size – Google is to big and too slow to compete with Facebook. Why it happens all over again and again? Microsoft did it 20 years ago with IBM; Google did it with Microsoft 10 years ago; guess what? Facebook will do it with Google now. It is always some small company that takes over and rules for a decade until it grows so big that politics and talent attrition start eating it from inside.
- User perception – Google brand is not associated with social networking. With the rest of the web – yes, but not with social networking. Here are my associations:
- Enterprise == IBM || Microsoft || Oracle || SAP
- Desktop == Microsoft
- Web == Google (think search, services etc.)
- Social Networking == Facebook
Somehow anyone of those companies fails to move into any of the other areas. I am not saying it is not possible (think how Microsoft entered the Enterprise space) but I guess you get my point.
- Age – Google is too old to understand the new world. Companies are like people – the older they get the less risk they want to take and the slower they move and think. It is harder to get an older person out of their comfort zone, and this is happening with Google employees – those are people who lived through the Web ages; they understand the Web, and know how to control it but they don’t understand the Social Networks and don’t know how to control it (or how to let it loose).
- Too many things on their plate – self-driven cars, anyone? Google is trying to do too many things that are 1.) not in their competence and 2.) distracting them from the market.
It is all predictions; the range is from 0 to ∞ (infinity) and Google has its fair chance to take over as much as it can. As an early adopter I will be using G+ but if I don’t see additional value soon I may as well forget about it.