It’s the American July 4th week end, one of our two really big national holidays. People here usually flee the summer heat to gather with friends and family in parks or near water. The night’s in many places are ignited by fireworks, a tribute to bombs once bursting in air and our flag still being there.
In New York, many folk go to The Hempsteads on Long Island. In Boston they queue down to Cape Cod. In Cyberspace, this past week-end, there was an unprecedented migration out of Facebook and Twitter over to Google’s new social network, Google Plus, or Google+ or G+ as the cool kids are already calling it.
There is some drama to the build up. Insiders say Co-Founder Larry Page pushed Eric Schmidt out as CEO because of the venerable Schmidt’s inability to grasp how to make or market a social media platform. It’s true, I knew Schmidt when we were both you in the early days at Sun Microsystems and greatly admired him. but under his purview, he failed to get people to Wave, Buzz or even learn how to properly spell ‘Orkutz.’
Schmidt launched, Wave, Buzz and other clumsy social attempts in a traditional marketing sort of way–with big marketing and advertising and noise. The products were developed with feedback from focus groups and they just did not engage or compel the people who influence us to use social media tools.
I’ve said before that Google learned Buzz is the last sound you hear before getting stung on the neck. Most of us counted google out of the social media game. They still mattered because of Gmail and of course search, but as for new and cool–well they might as well be Microsoft.
This must have been very painful for Larry Page and Sergei Brin, who–despite incredible personal wealth–are too young to sit back and relax on past laurels. It must have been hard watching many of their best technologists leaving their campus to go to Facebook. It must have been hard seeing their names slip from the conversation only to be replaced by that of Mark Zuckerberg.
As entrepreneurs they are too young to be old, and most people were perceiving Google as prematurely aging.
So young Larry wrested the reigns back from his adult supervisor Eric and in a short while puts his thumbprint on yet another social media platform–G+. Most people figure it’s too little, too late and the week before it came out, I sense far more apathy than anticipation.
This time Google’s launch was relatively modest–a blog announcement. G+ got into the hands of a few people, each of them prominent in social media circles. Those people use Twitter and Facebook to talk about how cautiously optimistic they were about the new platform. The conversation on other competing networks soon was filled with G+ talk seemingly to the expense of all else.
It’s less than a week later. Millions of people are using G+. Folks have started using Huddle a new video chat that accommodates up to ten users for free. So far, all Huddlers I’ve seen love the product. For Google, this must be frosting on the cake because Huddle looks like a Skype killer and this is a mere week after former arch-rival Microsoft acquired the original video chat platform, causing speculation that Skype’s freeness and openness may soon be changing.
I’ve started using G+ and like just about everyone else, I really love it. How this will change my use of other social networks, I cannot yet tell you. But my loyalty is to my friends in social networks and I will go where they go. I like G+ ability for me to make small circles of real friends or business colleagues. I like the simplicity and elegance of G+.
It also seems to me–on early examination–to allow the sort of private social conversations that I’ve ranted about. Google may not have a perfect record on its “don’t be evil” slogan, but it’s record is a damn site better than Facebook. I trust Google will keep conversations that we think are private out of scrutiny with advertisers and online data collectors. I do not think there’s a chance of that over at Facebook.
I’m going to leave most of the product analysis to the product gurus who have written volumes about G+ in the past few days. I’m more about story telling than product analysis.
The Google Plus story s shaping up to be is one of the best technology has produced. Most of us did not see it coming, but it did. G+ started as a mere disturbance in the vortex and has already become a tsunami in cyberspace.
And we users are the better off for it.