A complete archive of Google's failed attempts in the social networking space [Part -1]
In this edition, we will have a look at every unsuccessful attempt by Google in developing a long-term social networking/messaging app.
As you have already judged from the title we will be talking about how Google has miserably struggled with social networking and messaging apps. Here are few facts to start off-
Google has killed over 18 social networking/messaging platforms.
Social networking/messaging platforms by Google lived for an average span of 4.2 years
Through the course of this post, we will be covering the rise and fall of each product one by one. Let’s get started!
In mid-2016, Youtube started rolling out its messaging feature for some of the users, especially in western countries. The problem addressed was pretty clear- Youtube had become a place just for hosting videos where most of the users were coming through a link shared with them by their peers or searching directly. The sense of community and socializing was diminishing, which must have impacted the engagement metrics.
Before Youtube Messaging
YouTube clearly was adamant about retaining all the engagement to its own platform rather than donating the post-high-psych excitement to other social media like Facebook, Whatsapp, etc. With the new messaging feature, users got an easy option to share their excitement over a Youtube video in a dedicated space within Youtube.
After Youtube Messaging
The experience associated with Youtube messaging was really smooth. They even added a touch of competitive intuition to it. On top of this, they designed the messaging experience to be very sleek yet satisfactory enough for the targeted types of conversations.
What actually happened
It didn’t take long for Google to decide that this is not how you retain the engagement within the app. Users are usually comfortable with 2-3 chatting apps where they can get all the stuff done like sharing media, documents, etc. Youtube messaging’s stack of possibilities was just enough to cater to the video-sharing experience.
Think of it from a user’s perspective who is already super comfortable with the likes of Whatsapp, iMessage, etc. Even if an active user (Yellow Minion) invites an inactive user (purple Minion) to chat on Youtube, it would still not be helpful in retaining the conversation to a long one.
Although benefits were there, it started costing a downfall in Youtube’s critical metrics by cannibalizing important features like the comments section. The more people discussed a video with their close group of friends in the chat, the lesser they initiate the same discussion in the comments section. Which was also hurting the ultimate goal of Youtube towards their creators.
Less comments -> Less visible engagement -> Less virality
And as we all know, with the other one-to-many communication features on the roadmap, Youtube took the harsh step of shutting down the messaging feature permanently, the aftermath of which includes some 4000 curses and complaints on the announcement post.
Google launched its version of Whatsapp/iMessage in September 2016. Although a bit late to the party, Google was still ambitious on capturing a decent amount of market share.
To make it look lucrative on a competitive scale, Google added a major additional enhancement in the form of integrated Google assistant. The beloved AI-powered personal assistant was given the duty of keeping the conversations alive with on-the-go insights and actions within the chat.
But from the outside, Allo was just another messaging app with a toy attached to it. A toy can do the job of getting initial users onboard, but for retaining users against their comfortable space in the form of other competitors, you need to actually get users’ stuff done.
Although our beloved Google assistant is very powerful, a major reason behind its success had been the voice input. But in this case, the user had to type the question or action they want to address, which takes an almost equal amount of time and effort if they do that manually. On top of this, if Google Assistant fails to understand the input, the frustration is also amplified as compared to the voice-based experience.
Hence, within 3 years of launch, Google killed their yet another attempt at social messaging and decided to focus more on the RCS-based platform.
Orkut as we all know used to be the master of social networking in the 2000s. Named after its creator - Orkut Büyükkökten, Orkut was able to capture ~400 million users in its peak days, with major traffic from Brazil and India.
Just a stone-throw away from Google HQ in California, another budding social network called Facebook was also hustling to make its mark. Despite the fact that Orkut had all the brilliant brains and resources by Google, it was shut down on June 30, 2014.
Let us have a look at the reasons behind Orkut’s downfall one by one-
Privacy: Think of a social media app that doesn’t let you hide any of your contact information from creepy people in public. No, right?
Slow Speed: Although Orkut was fast enough to let the users interact, when compared to Facebook, it wasn’t even catching up the race.
Slow Upgrades: The pace at which Orkut was rolling out features according to its user demands was slow enough for active users to leak out to exciting competitors.
Complex Features: Apart from the fact it took a lot of time for Orkut to roll out new features, with every major redesign, that itself takes a lot of effort, Orkut became more and more complex. At a point, it seemed like you need to have a crash course on how to even sign up for Orkut.
Google got a new bae: As Google started observing the downfall of Orkut, Google decided to move on and focus on its rising ventures like Google+ and Youtube.
This is it for the first part of this series!
In the next part, we will be talking about some unpopular ones in the list that didn’t even reach the international audience!
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