We've reached that point in the development of Google Plus where technology pundits suddenly declare this new social media network a complete failure and predict nothing but DOOM, DOOM, DOOM! Of course, it was only a few months ago that these same people were praising Google Plus and calling it the Facebook killer. But if there's one thing no tech pundit can embrace it is consistency.
The truth is that growth patterns of new human activities – no matter if the activity is based around a piece of technology, a social movement, or a new boy band – follow rather predictable patterns:
- First you have an intial growth spurt stimulated by early adopters.
- Then the growth evens out as word spreads about the new activity. The activity can also collapse at this stage if not enough people are impressed with it.
- Next the activity begins another impressive growth spurt as it penetrates into the general population.
- And finally, the activity either becomes an enduring artifact of human expression or, as more often happens, it turns out to be a passing fad whose popularity craters as we fickle humans move on to other pursuits.
The time span for these four steps can vary anywhere from a few weeks to a few years or more, but the basic arc of people accepting something new rarely changes. In my opinion Google Plus is now just past the early adopter stage and fully within the second "even growth" stage. But while it is possible for activities to fail to engage people at this stage – as it is also possible at the early adopter stage – Google Plus already has enough users that it should move successfully to the third stage and catch the attention of the general population. That's where the true success or failure of Google Plus will be decided.
If what I'm saying is true then obviously it is far to early to declare Google Plus a failure. And the fact that Facebook has responded so aggressively to Google Plus by redesigning their social media interface shows that Mark Zuckerberg and company are well aware of the danger posed by their new competition.
So what do I think about Google Plus at this point in its development? Personally, I still prefer the clean interface of Google Plus over Facebook. I've also found that Facebook's recent redesign fails to impress me.
That said, I'm also using Google Plus less than I did when I was an early adopter. Part of this is due to my personal time being dominated by editing and writing projects. However, I've also noticed that the personal interactions I so enjoyed during the early days of Google Plus are not happening as much. (I suspect this is one reason so many pundits are yelling "GoogleFail!") For what it's worth, though, I remember a similar pattern happening during the early days of Twitter, in that precarious time between people babbling excitedly about their first few Tweets and the social network turning into something people used on a daily basis. I suspect this is a normal part of the second stage of growth of a social network.
So if you're going to predict the failure of Google Plus, I'd suggest waiting another year or two. If by that point Google Plus is still struggling to engage people with people, then yes, it will face a rough future. But my money's still on Google Plus succeeding.