NEW YORK (MainStreet) – When Google+ finally dropped its invitation-only policy and threw open the doors to everyone last month, it saw a huge influx of new users, and by some estimates the social network now boasts 50 million users. But all those new arrivals must have felt like they’d shown up to school on Saturday, as they quickly discovered what early adopters already knew: For all the hype, it’s pretty quiet on Google+.
In a report published late last week, data analytics firm Chitika found that Google+ did indeed see a huge spike in traffic shortly after it opened its doors to the general public. But within a week, traffic had fallen more than 60% to return to previous levels.
“It would appear that although high levels of publicity were able to draw new traffic to Google+, few of them saw reason to stay,” says Chitika data analyst Gabe Donnini in the post. He goes on to say that Google+ needed to stand out from the social media crowd with unique features, something he says that it failed to do.
To be fair, Google+ did bring some new features to the table when it first launched, in particular an intuitive new privacy system using “circles.” But Facebook was quick to ape those features in response to the rise of Google+, alleviating one of the big privacy concerns that Facebook users had had with the network. While Google+ can still stand apart by virtue of its “hangouts” group video chat feature, it seems that’s not enough to give it the leg up on social networks that have already reached critical mass.
It’s not just outside observers proclaiming the death of Google+, either. Earlier today a Google engineer posted an extended rant on his Google+ account in which he savaged the company for, among other things, its failure to compete in the social space.
“Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product,” wrote the engineer, who later acknowledged that the post was meant to be private and subsequently took it down. “But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work.”
In other words, while Facebook allowed developers to create applications and games like Farmville to keep people entertained and using the site, Google focused on basics like privacy and chat capabilities. While that means that Google+ is in some ways technically superior to Facebook, it doesn’t have the “constellation of products” to keep people interested.
For those who like the idea of a simple, stripped-down social networking platform, that may in fact be ideal, and we suspect that many Google+ diehards will continue to use the platform to share and communicate amongst themselves. But mainstream adoption as a social networking platform appears to have eluded Google’s grasp.