In June it will have been three years since the launch of Google+.
At the time, it was widely predicted that the search engine giant’s social network would be the likely successor to Facebook. Only it hasn’t really worked out that way.
Part of the problem for G+ is that Facebook, unlike Friendster and Myspace, has proved fairly adept at adapting to changing user habits and wants; preempting the need for another major social network to come along and replace it.
The networks that have drawn users away from Facebook have typically done so by offering something different, rather than by just trying to be a Facebook clone, which is how most people perceive Google+.
Definitely not helping the network, is Google’s strategy for increasing G+ user-ship by essentially forcing users to opt in by turning anyone with a Gmail or a YouTube account into a Google+ user, whether they want to be or not.
The latest hammer-handed attempt by Google to entice users into using their stalled out social network consists of permitting anyone with a Google Plus account to email anyone else with a Google Plus account – not to send a message over the network – but to email them directly to their Gmail inbox. This means that all someone needs to reach your private mailbox is your name, not your email address.
In all fairness, Google is providing users with an easy means to opt out of receiving unsolicited messages from G+ users. Also, even if a G+ user does email you through the network, they won’t actually see your email address unless you respond to them.
But it’s the fact that Google continues attempting to force its weak social network onto anyone using its stronger suit of services that’s making it appear desperate.
As The New York Times points out:
“Google is trying to use its dominant position in one field to push a lesser service onto unsuspecting users.”
G+ isn’t the first one of Google’s products that’s not been successful. But what’s unique about this situation is Google’s stubborn refusal to call it a failure, shutter it, and move on.
In fact so single-minded has Google’s focus on making Plus successful been, that they’ve seemed intent on doing so at any cost. As this most recent move implies, they’re even willing to compromise the trust many users place in them in order to strong arm people into adopting the network.
They just keep doubling down on the struggling network, even to the point where they seem willing to throw their more popular services under the bus to make it succeed.
“Have you ever started typing an email to someone only to realize halfway through the draft that you haven’t actually exchanged email addresses?” writes Google product manager David Nachum on the company blog. “If you are nodding your head ‘yes’ and already have a Google+ profile, then you’re in luck, because now it’s easier for people using Gmail and Google+ to connect over email.”
Nachum and Google seem to be missing the obvious point that if you don’t have someone’s email address, it may in fact be because they don’t want you to have it.
You can forgive Google to some extent for trying to do what’s necessary to push their network. But in the case of this latest move, it seems that Google should at least have rolled this out as an “opt-in” feature rather than making users have to opt out in order to maintain the perceived privacy that presumably drew them to use Gmail in the first place.
If users suddenly find their in-boxes flooded with SPAM from Google + users they may begin exploring other options for email. Sooner or later, Google has to draw a line in terms of how many of their popular services they want to risk compromising by tying them to the social network that at this point, no one seems to want or need.