A few weeks now into my foray into the new-fangled “social networking” facility of Google and I am starting to wonder where the party is. Much has been made of the 25 million-odd signups Google Plus enjoyed over the first couple of weeks as a by-invitation-only Beta site and now the question seems to be coming across a bit more clearly now: Is it all about the numbers?
Much of the blurbery I’ve been reading about Google Plus was mainly around feature-for-feature comparisons between G+ and the goliath it is up against – Facebook. Seems like a key ingredient in what makes a social network was missing from the evaluation — people. Specifically the emotional investment that went into building one’s profile including the loving looks we gave our photos as we waited for Facebook to upload them into its cloud was something the “experts” neglected to consider.
I recall this cartoon being buzzed around a while back that alluded to the nature of the crowd G+ was amassing in its early weeks. The “in” crowd, presumably those who had been invited into the G+ “community,” were the geeky techos and the “out” crowd which the illustrator depicted as, well, mainly the babe set were standing outside the cordon looking a bit left out. In retrospect, that image now comes across as a generic representation of a rather timeless nerd’s fantasy which remains as relevant today in the digitised world of “social media” as it was back in the days when Patrick Dempsey, John Cusack, and Anthony Michael Hall played heroic teen geek protagonists aspiring to climbing the social ladder in their community high schools.
Back to the feature-for-feature punditry of the early days (remember, these are timeframes characteristically measured in weeks considering the industry we are discussing here), think about it. IT guys view of what is cool is not necessarily aligned with what truly “cool” people think is so. Rare exceptions are guys like Steve Jobs whose formidable grasp of technological nuances he applied brilliantly to the world of branding â€œcoolâ€. But while engineers build great engines, it is artists who clad these in the human veneer that turns them into marketable cars.
If we are to believe the depiction of how Facebook came to be in the movie The Social Network, we will see how Facebook traces it roots to a solution to a fundamental human need that lit up in Mark Zuckerberg’s head.
Is G+ a product of that same sort of inspiration? Or is it just another engineered and commercialised product?
The answer to that question will most likely be what spells the rise or demise of Google Plus over the next several weeks.
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