The problem isn’t design and it isn’t lack of demand – it’s lack of interest. Google hasn’t provided useful innovation.
During the Google+ hype a few months back it seemed as if everyone was so excited that Google finally had a social network. And while I agree with the fact that Google+ was a substantial milestone for the Internet giant, I couldn’t help but to chuckle at the fact that next to nobody seemed to recognize the fact that Google had a social network already and had been somewhat quietly been holding onto it for several years. No, I’m not talking about Google Buzz, Google Groups, or even the thriving community that Google has in YouTube. Rather, I’m talking about a site that Google launched in January of 2004 – nearly eight years ago now and one that despite being virtually unknown throughout the United States is incredibly popular in Brazil, India, and the Philippines.
With an estimated 66 million active users, Orkut is probably about one-tenth the size (in regards to user-base) as Facebook. Nonetheless, Orkut, an independent project started by a Google employee has been around longer than Facebook, albeit only by about a month, and has a very loyal group of users. Sure, it’s not anywhere as large as Facebook or Twitter right now, but in retrospect to the Internet as a whole Orkut is incredibly popular, currently holding Alexa rankings of 119 (for orkut.com) and 114 (for orkut.com.br) worldwide.
If you’re a long-time Facebook user I’m sure that you still remember the “good old days” when Facebook “applications” had a huge tendency to cause frustration right and left because of the horrid levels of spam that would get passed onto the end-users. While I for one was a pretty big Facebook fan at the time, even I became incredibly frustrated with the applications that were taking advantage of Facebook’s application feature to do nothing more than spread spam. Even when Facebook stepped up and removed many of the applications that were designed for pure malicious annoyance, even the more “innocent” applications – predominantly games – began to prove annoying as well. Farmville and Mafia Wars were probably two of the most annoying out there, and I for one grew somewhat annoyed at the number of requests I would get to fertilize my friend’s eggs or whack my classmate’s cousin.
There even came a point where I stopped logging into Facebook as often simply because I was sick and tired of being bombarded with what I felt was pure spam every single time that I logged in. Fortunately there were enough users like me out there who became just as frustrated with the application notifications as I was, and eventually Facebook pulled the plug on the traditional application notification systems and shoved applications and games onto a sidebar, freeing up space for the news feed.
It seems that users have been fed up with Facebook and Twitter for nearly as long as each respective service has been around, and if only in day-dreams I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone has wished for the “perfect” social network to come along at one point or another. After opening its doors as an invite-only service on June 28th, yesterday officially marked the one month milestone for Google Plus.
Let me start out this post by saying that Facebook is far from perfect. Back in September I expressed my growing frustration with the social network that at the time was being riddled with levels of spam that many like myself deemed simply unacceptable. And while I still think that Facebook has a lot of room to grow and that there are definitely improvements to be made, I must say that the social network is heading in an alright direction in my eyes.
Yesterday Google unveiled their new social suite known as Google+ (Google Plus). While currently available only by invite and not yet released to the general public, Google+ promises (yet again) to change how we communicate and integrate with other users. But this time, I think that Google has really hit the nail dead-center on the head.