Is Google+ serving advertisers, users, or Google execs? Yes.

June 30, 2011

By Marco Arment
The opinions expressed are his own.

Breaking news: a huge advertising company would like you to give them as much of your personal information as possible and encourages you to use their services more frequently, for more reasons, and for longer durations each time so they can show you more ads and make more money from the advertisers.

I like Dave Winer’s take.

It’s not difficult for a company of Google’s size to make a social network. The challenge is getting enough people to use it, and quickly enough, that the early adopters will stick around after the first few days and start habitually using it.

This is an extremely high barrier to entry, even for Google. As with most social phenomena, social-network success tends to happen more organically and unpredictably than anyone is able to artificially create by throwing money at it.

Successful social services at this scale also need constant attention, rapid improvements, and nearly flawless product direction — skills that Google hasn’t been able to consistently deliver to many of their products.

The network effect is extremely high in social networks. It’s absolutely a boil-the-ocean problem. For Google+ to be useful to you, most of your “friends” (in some context) need to be using it on a regular basis. And most people won’t use more than one social network regularly.

To get widespread adoption, therefore, this needs to take a lot of users away from Facebook, and quickly. Google+’s specific features are far less relevant until after (and if) it gets widespread use and competes strongly with Facebook.

So instead of analyzing the specific features, let’s ask that big question: Will a lot of people use Google+ instead of Facebook?

I don’t know the answer. I’m terrible at predicting what will and won’t be successful, especially socially. Navigating the demo site was frustrating and confusing for me, and it seems like more effort was spent making Google’s staff happy than considering its clarity and usefulness to users — a common complaint I have with Google’s products.

But I don’t have access to the actual service, and initial reviews from people in the private beta are positive.

Like most people, I’ll join Google+ when I’m motivated to join by social factors. Let’s see if that happens, when, why, and for how many people.

This post was originally published on

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

G+ is a lot of fun. Circles make a lot of difference for sharing. There will be more posting because the distribution can be controlled very well and easily. Most of us have tiered relationships: family, old friends, new friends, work friends… Circles make sense. Signing up is easy because of Gmail. They are suggested to you on a list. Our extended family of 14 got invited last night but only 6 really got in. The rest are waiting.

Let’s see how this affects our FB habits, taking into consideration the unpredictable, and unannounced privacy rules at FB.

Posted by JosephNg | Report as abusive