Viewpoint: “The Lost Honour” of dying Google+

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Think back to this past summer for a minute. I know it’s hard to do with the weather finally starting to get chilly here in Waco, but reflect on those sunny days. The time spent lounging by the pool. The time when Google+ was supposed to be the Facebook killer.

Doesn’t that seem like forever ago?

Google+, Google’s most recent attempt at creating a viable social network, appears to be dead in the water. I was only even reminded of its existence because of an e-mail I got informing me that Google Wave, Google’s previous half-hearted attempt at creating some kind of social experience online, was being shut down. The question I had to ask myself was this: How long until Google+ follows suit?

When Google+ was first released, I’ll admit it intrigued me. The Android app was solid. The invite-only feature made me feel special. The fact that it wasn’t blocked everywhere with a proxy gave it a leg up over Facebook.

The problem, of course, was that it still wasn’t Facebook. All of my friends were on Facebook. Even with Google+, 1,083 of my friends are still there. I don’t even have 100 friends on Google+.

Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll’s “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum” follows the beautiful Katharina. Everything appears to be going her way until she falls in love with a murderer and quickly finds herself under investigation from the authorities.

The book is one of my all-time favorites, partially because of the fact that it speaks to something larger than the story contained within the pages. Who hasn’t seen something beautiful (like Katharina) find itself in trouble because of a few careless mistakes?

Obviously there is some debate about whether or not Ms. Blum is actually to blame for her downfall — you’ll have to read the book so you can decide for yourself ­— but I personally thought that part of her problem is that she was too arrogant and thought too highly of herself. Could there be a more direct parallel to Google+ and its rapid decline in popularity?

The reason that no one shifted from Facebook to Google+ was that there was no reason to shift from Facebook to Google+. Google+ had no notable features that Facebook did not have and Google executives seemed to think that we should all move over simply because we love Google, even though many of those executives did not appear to embrace the site themselves.

Just so we’re clear, I do love Google. I think it’s clearly the best search engine on the Internet and it makes it so easy to bring disparate things together. This was, however, the exact reason that I was never sold on Google+. All of the characteristic ease of use of Google Non-Plus didn’t seem to make its way over to Google+. That’s too bad.

I write this column not to rejoice in the downfall of Google+, but to mourn it. There are serious privacy issues with Facebook that I’m not convinced will ever be adequately addressed.

I want Google+ to succeed and I think there is still a chance to make that happen. But it’s going to take some real effort. They might start by taking their own “+1” concept to heart. Why can’t Google+ one-up Facebook?

Facebook is often slow to address issues that people would like to see addressed. Why is it that years after its initial implementation, the “Like” button on Facebook remains alone? Why is it that we don’t have “Dislike” buttons or “Love” buttons? Even Xanga had varied amounts of “eProps” that could be left for users.

These are easy areas that Google+ could have capitalized on, but instead, they chose only to give us a slightly more muddled version of the “Like” button.

If we’re going to shift over to Google+, we need a reason to do so. The Google brand will get me to sign up, but it won’t get me to stay there, especially when my 1,083 friends are staying on Facebook.

Thinking that you’re more important than my 1,083 friends makes me think you and Katharina Blum might have something in common.

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