Larry Page, since taking the helm of Google, has been doing a lot of housecleaning, starting with closing up 10 under-performing products. This week saw round 2 of the shutdowns, this time with much higher profile products.
First off is Google Buzz which has had nothing but problems since day 1. The product, which was something similar to Twitter, found problems with privacy on day 1 when everyone in your email list was added to your following list. This could include ex-husbands, stalkers, business partners - none of whom should see the things you are doing or the places you go on the Internet.
The second product is Jaiku, a product I was actually pretty sure was already closed. Jaiku, also similar to Twitter, was purchased in 2007 and never really integrated into the company properly. That being said, products that Google purchases and don't immediately re-brand (such as Jaiku or Orkut), don't usually stand a chance within the organization.
Google thinks they have learned lessons from these brands, though. Hit the break to find out why we think they might not have.
Google has, as one employee, Steve Yegge, put it, an "if we build it, they will come" mentality. While this is accurate, it doesn't seem sustainable. Google+, Google's newest attempt at competing in the social networking world, is a great example. Steve said,
Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that's not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work.
Google's idea is to harvest data from users to make their search results and therefore their advertising more relevant. Google has thrown a lot of money at the Google+ development, but it still lacks a number of basic features that Facebook and Twitter have had for years, and they are missing a robust API like the big boys.
The API-capabilities of Facebook are the reason it is what it is. Many of us interact with it almost entirely through things that are not Facebook - Like buttons on websites (which you should hit at the bottom down there), friend feeds, the photos and contacts on our smartphones, third-party apps, etc. Twitter also has a robust API, although has made some odd decisions about its use. This is why these services work.
Google, with a lack of openness, has created a network of trapped data. This, in part, has led to a 70% drop in usage, since September 20th. Its clumsy, ugly interface has something to do with it, but Facebook isn't much better and they see fairly steady usage. Of course, any time Google launches a product, people like myself and my colleagues are required to sign-up and use it for a while; it's part of the job. I can promise you, though, once we have reviewed it, most of us abandon it forever (see Google Wave). My guess is that Google will see a little bit of growth over the next few weeks (from this 70% drop number) and then it will level off until it is ultimately abandoned, like the other Google social products.
If you are in the social game to enrich peoples' lives, like Facebook and Twitter believe they are, you'll have success. If you are in it for data harvesting, you will not understand why people use the service and, like Buzz and Jaiku, it will be shut down.