A complete archive of Google's failed attempts in the social networking space [Part -3]
Digging the grave of Google's unsuccessful attempts in the social networking/messaging space, one-by-one.
Here we are with the third part of the 3-post series on Google’s social media/networking grave. In this concluding part, we will discuss some of the viral and high-effort products in the category.
In case you missed the first and second part of this series where we digged deeper into the stories of major platforms like Orkut, Youtube Messaging, Aardvark, Shoelace etc., click here to find the same.-
If you have read the previous parts, you must have stumbled upon the fact that a lot of Google’s social networking/messaging products were killed to pave the way for their highly ambitious take on prominent platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Google had been already struggling in its experiments with social networking platforms. The recent one being their struggle with Google Buzz which was replacing their popular Google Wave. Google wave, targetted for a specific audience, was a real-time collaborative platform that failed to get expected traction.
Buzz was essentially a Twitter alternative, knitted into the Google ecosystem’s products like Gmail, etc. After struggling with the cluttered interface, privacy issues, Google decided to shut Buzz and several other products eventually with a lot of homework for Google+
The Launch - Fearful Vision
“We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward,” says Vic Gundotra, founder, Google+ to Techcrunch. “We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public,” he continues. “Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software,” is the last thing he says before diving into a demo of Google+.
Vic Gundotra scared the then CEO of Google, Larry Page with the growth of Facebook, that it might overtake and kill the likes of Google. Google+ was always meant to and looked upon as a competitor of Google.
Blinded by the rat race, Google+’s primary traction channels during the launch failed to differentiate much from that of Facebook. On top of this, the Google+ vs Facebook fiasco lost stability when the Facebook scare ambassador Vic Gundotra left Google+ mysteriously a few years after launch.
Symmetric: Two persons agree to be connected to follow each other. Ex: LinkedIn, Facebook.
Asymmetric: One person can follow/connect with the other person in a one-way interaction model without the other person agreeing to it. Ex- Twitter, Instagram, etc.
The asymmetric model turned out to be poles apart from Google’s highly publicized differentiation from Facebook - “Real-life connecting with people”.
To accommodate for the mix match, they introduced circles, which allowed people to create a dedicated space for them where they can broadcast their thoughts and happenings. The interaction was one-way again, and once someone added you to their circle, you’ll just be able to see their posts, along with 100s of other unknown people.
Circles created a digital version of that awkward feeling you get when you go to a friend’s birthday and you meet dozens of unknown people, with a single motive to stare the birthday boy/girl.
Google is known for its engineering-driven approach. Google+’s interface and use cases as a platform resonated more with the peeps in the tech industry and were apparently not friendly enough for others when compared to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Google tried really hard to revive the engagement on Google+. They integrated it into the Google ecosystem so deeply that at a point Youtube comments were replaced by Google+. All of the integrations including photos, Youtube, Hangouts were unknitted eventually before its demise.
There were goods and there were bads, but with the burden of stagnant numbers, controversies and so much stake, Google+ was eventually buried after 7 years of its launch.
In August 2005, Google launched its Google Talk to take on Yahoo Messenger and AOL Messenger. It was speculated from the start that Google Talk, once stable, will be integrated into Gmail.
The major reason behind Google Talk’s failure was a quite unique one. Right from the start, Google focussed on interoperability with other instant messaging clients. Built on top of the XMPP protocol, GTalk wanted every person on the internet to talk with their connection regardless of the type of instant messaging provider they are using.
But as mentioned by Larry Page in Google’s I/O 2013, the industry was not ready to cooperate with the idea of interoperability.
I've personally been quite sad at the industry's behavior around all these things. If you just take something as simple as instant messaging, we've kind of had an offer forever that we'll interoperate on instant messaging.
I think just this week Microsoft took advantage of that by interoperating with us but not doing the reverse, which is really sad, right?
And that's not the way to make progress. You need to actually have interoperation, not just people milking off one company for their own benefit.
So I think Google has always stood for that. I've been sad that the industry hasn't been able to advance those things, I think, generally because of a focus on negativity and on zero sum games.
This episode of sabotage from other vendors hit Google so hard that they scrapped most of the open protocol policies and focussed on building closed-source products like Google+ and Hangouts in the future.
In an attempt to take on Twitter, in Oct 2007, Google acquired a Finland-based startup called Jaiku, developed by Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen. During the acquisition, the cross-platform microblogging and messaging platform had no specific plans with Jaiku as mentioned by their founders -
While it’s too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you’ll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now. But fear not, all our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will be able to invite your friends to Jaiku.
Although not stated by Google, everyone expected that Google will integrate the tool with their other apps. But Google unexpectedly left Jaiku hanging as a loner.
The product itself got major backlash related to loading speeds, integrations, and other errors a few months after the acquisition which led users to migrate back to Twitter. On top of this, they restricted the users to join only if they had an invite from Google, which made it even worse.
In the following years, Jaiku didn’t receive any major updates or new features and at the same time was failing to gain traction while competing with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and the in-house Google+.
Hence, in 2012, thanks to Larry Page’s summer cleaning, Jaiku was shut down along with the likes of Google Buzz.
If you have read all the 3 posts of this series, you might have observed that there were no specific reasons or patterns in the collection of Google’s social media and messaging cemetery.
There are certain factors that come into play while deciding when to shut down a product. In most of the cases that phase comes way later than it should have been. Companies fall in love with the products they make and it’s usually late before they unwind themselves from this trap. Google being an innovation-driven company can’t afford to do that and always try to identify the “post milking phase” or the “pre-ROI peak phase”.
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