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Remembering Google+ (and Silicon Valley’s less popular features)

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Ding dong, Google+ is dead. However, before we pay our last respects, I suggest we glance back at Silicon Valley’s other notable failures. Womp womp.

 

 

It was intended as the big competitor to Facebook, but it wasn’t meant to be, with Google+ shutting down seven years after it launched in 2011. There are a number of reasons Google+ just didn’t work; first of all it was not a user-friendly experience, with a forced sign up for Google accounts, and it did little more than allow users to share pictures, videos, thoughts and apps – like a poor man’s Facebook. The other issue was hardly anyone was using it – even Dorie Clark wrote an article for Forbes about the benefits of using Google+ “even though no one else is”.

That is the key part of all of this: no one used it. Forced to sign up, sure, but actually using the platform? Not so much. In fact Google+ sessions lasted less than five seconds, 90% of the time. Not a great result considering the access to market Google has. Additionally, recent security breaches have occurred, with Google dealing with the bug internally causing greater criticism and legal ramifications as well as an amendment of their privacy policies. This closure also comes after the announcement that Google would be shutting down their Inbox app, in March 2019.

But we shouldn’t mock Google, these companies are trying to change their industries and that requires a lot of testing, trials and at times acceptance of failure.

Google+ was a poor man’s Facebook. Even Dorie Clark wrote an article for Forbes about the benefits of using Google+ “even though no one else is”.

Remember when you used to be able to quickly jump on Facebook to find out the latest news, only to have that shut down in June this year, citing less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers? The idea was that users could be exposed quickly to trending news items, but Facebook copped criticism around the news algorithm, as well as for relying on algorithms instead of human moderators. An anonymous former Facebook contractor also made claims that Facebook was eliminating conservative news from the trending news feature, inciting further criticism.

Facebook also shut down their Friend List Feeds this year, citing few used the feature, before migrating some of its ability to edit friends lists rather than having a specific feed for selected friends. They also rolled out greater flexibility around how you could customise your newsfeed, as well as hiding those you don’t want to see posts from.

Both Google and Facebook have faced significant criticisms lately around security breaches, transparency around data and involvement in political bias. Neither of these companies are likely to fall over any time soon, but the onus should be on users to stay abreast of new features, and actively ignore the ones we hate, as ultimately we can dictate, collectively, how best these companies serve us.

 

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