Yesterday was a big day for Google. The company launched a wave of new and updated products, but the focus was clearly on the (unexpected) launch of Google+. Until now, Google forays into social networking were generally lackluster (except for in Brazil, where Orkut continues to be popular). After the failure of Buzz, Google+ is the company’s most ambitious social networking play yet. After spending a day with the product, it’s clear that Google’s teams learned from the mistakes they made with Buzz and finally put together a social networking service that can compete.
Google put a massive amount of effort behind this tool, but many of its parts still remain unconnected and scattered across Google’s various properties (the +1 buttons, for example, aren’t connected to your stream yet). Google+, however, gives us a first glimpse at what a lot of these parts could look like once they become integrated into one cohesive unit. What exactly this final product will look like still remains to be seen, but the basic building blocks are now in place. (more…)
Google just launched it’s +1 button this morning. This new feature allows Google’s users to like sites and ads right on the search results page and which will soon also come to a site near you in the form of a Facebook-like “-1” button. Quite a few pundits are already proclaiming this as a Facebook competitor, but I have my doubts. For now, the benefits of clicking the +1 button simply aren’t there for users to bother clicking on them.
The +1 button will be a great new signal for Google to improve its search results and add information to its Social Search feature, but for it to really take off, Google will have to syndicate these results to places where people really want to send them. In its introductory video, Google says that it wants users to use this for sites they want to recommend, but don’t want to “want to send an email or post an update about.”
For Now, Your +1’s Disappear Into a Void – So Why Bother?
The real problem right now, tough, is that there are only so many buttons users can click on on any given site and unless they know where their recommendations go, chances are they won’t bother using this feature much.
With +1, your friends will see your “likes” on search results pages and on your Google Profile. I doubt that there is a lot of traffic to anybody’s Google Profile today, so why would I feel inclined to add more content to it? Instead, when I send a recommendation to Facebook or Twitter, I know exactly where it goes and who sees it.
Chances are, too, that my friends aren’t always looking for the same thing I do, so the chance of them actually seeing my +1 recommendations are pretty slim – making me even less inclined to use the button.
Until Google actually allows users to syndicate these +1’s to other sites and services like Facebook and Twitter, I doubt that this will take off in a major way.
That said, though, chances are that this is only a small step in Google’s overall social strategy. Maybe +1 could become part of a larger Facebook competitor in the long run, but given Google’s general failure to make any dent in this market, I doubt it (Buzz, Google’s last major foray into competing with Facebook doesn’t even get the courtesy of being allowed to aggregate +1’s, which is quite telling, I think).
Lots of great stuff happened in the tech world in 2010, but for every success like the iPad, Instagr.am and Roku, there was also a major disappointment along the way. The bigger the hype, the greater the disappointment, of course, so this list features the top three products and events in 2010 that, in my view, were the biggest letdowns.
It’s no secret that Wave never caught on with the masses, even though it was among the most hyped products of 2009 and 2010. The fact that the team needed 1 hour and 20 minutes just to explain the concept at the introduction in early 2009 should have made a few alarm bells ring.
Most people never understood why they should use Wave and what they could do with it. While I always had great hopes for it (and even used it for live blogging at one point), in the end I had to concede that it was just too complicated and different for most people. Instead of giving the Wave team a chance to succeed and hone its product, though, Google decided to shut it down just a few months after opening it up for general use. Google always insisted that the Wave protocol and ecosystem was what it was really interested in, so maybe we’ll see some action on that front in the future.
Wave’s lead developer Lars Rasmussen is now at Facebook and the rest of the team is working on other projects. Some remnants of Wave are now available in Google Shared Spaces, but it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a return of Wave as a fully featured communications platform. Shame.
Google Buzz Doesn’t Catch On
Google launched Buzz, its latest and greatest social initiative in early February and immediately got lots of bad press thanks to major privacy issues that Google’s should have noticed long before it launched it. While Buzz looked like it could recapture some of FriendFeed‘s greatness (after all, it looks and works almost exactly like FriendFeed did before Facebook bought it and its developers moved on to bigger and better things), it’s mostly a wasteland today. Even though Google pushed it into millions of Gmail inboxes, it’s hard to find any real interactions on Buzz today. Instead of going to Buzz, most people just share their links and thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.
Sadly, Google never quite figured out how to move Buzz to the next level. While I don’t think the company will abandon it the way it dropped Wave like a hot potato, it remains to be seen for how long Buzz will remain in Gmail. Maybe Google’s next social initiative can breathe new life into Buzz, but I highly doubt it at this point.
Apple’s Ping Fizzles
Apple isn’t known for getting “social” right, but just like Google pushed Buzz into millions of inboxes, Apple baked Ping right into iTunes, the world’s most popular (though not always loved) music management software. Still, after botching the launch by not asking Facebook if it was okay to use its API to connect millions of iTunes users and promptly having to shut that system down, Ping never quite recovered. Without the Facebook integration, users had to hunt their friends down by their email addresses and few people ever bothered to do so.
Not being able to share songs that were already in your library didn’t make it any more useful. For something that bills itself as a “social network for music,” Ping just isn’t social enough.
In its latest version, Ping now makes it easier to share songs from your existing library and you can now import your Twitter friends, share playlists and tweet your “likes” out to the world. Still, even with these new features, NPR rightly called Ping one of the “worst ideas of 2010” and I couldn’t agree more.
When was the last time you even looked at Ping?
What’s On Your List?
So that’s my list for 2010? What’s on your list? What were the apps and services that disappointed you the most? Flipboard, which looks cool but isn’t that useful? The iPad, because it’s just a giant iPhone? Windows Phone? Android tablets?