Jul 20, 2011
The Apple store I visit most frequently is on the second floor of one of Atlanta’s largest shopping malls. Recently, Microsoft opened a store there as well, and positioned it on the first floor, right by the escalator that takes you up to the Apple Store.
The first thing you notice when passing by the Microsoft store is that, except for the logo and a few minor cosmetic differences, it basically looks exactly like the Apple Store. Microsoft had 10 years and all the money in the world, and that’s the best they could come up with?
There’s one other glaring difference as well: The Microsoft Store is almost always nearly empty.
Meanwhile, up at the top of the escalator, the Apple Store is usually packed with customers, and often there are even more people lined up outside of the store waiting to get in.
Ouch. Not the best marketing message for Microsoft to be sending out day after day, is it?
Anyway, after spending some time over the past week or so exploring Google’s shiny new social networking toy Google+, it dawned on me: Google+ is really just the Microsoft Store of social networking.
Think about it — Just like Microsoft, Google had all the time and all the money in the world to create this thing, and all they could come up with is a carbon copy of Facebook, with a few minor cosmetic differences.
And although I’m sure more people will arrive to the party over time, for now, Google+ feels a lot like the Microsoft Store in another way too: There’s nobody there.
Do you want to go to the party where there’s just a handful of nerdy guys hanging out, or the party where all your friends are? So far at least, there’s really no contest.
But it isn’t just the lack of people that’s the problem — that’s to be expected this early in a game that is still, at least nominally, invitation only.
The real problem is that Google+ launched without offering a single reason why anybody should give a damn.
“It’s just like Facebook” is simply not a compelling selling point. We already have Facebook. Who really needs another one?
When Facebook came online, they didn’t spread the word by telling everyone “it’s just like Friendster.” They made something different and unique. And better. And people came.
When Apple launched their first store, they didn’t say “it’s just like CompUSA.” They threw out the old model and came up with something new and better. And look where CompUSA is now.
There’s a big difference between looking at what’s there and saying, “I have a better idea” and looking at what’s there and saying, “let’s copy that.”
When Google debuted their search engine, nobody said “it’s just like Yahoo” or “it’s just like AltaVista.” Google’s take on search was new, different, and better. And it was immediately obvious right from day one.
But with Google+ it seems they’ve decided it’s better to follow than to lead and innovate. And honestly, that’s kind of sad.
So if Google+ is just an imitation of Facebook, why would I want to invest any time at all inviting my friends to join me on Google+ when they’re already all there on Facebook? Just so that I can use the little “drag them into circles” thing to organize them?
I’ll admit that the circles thing is a pretty cool little UI gimmick. But even that got old after about five minutes. And as far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the only innovative thing that Google+ has to offer.
Maybe in a year or so there will be a compelling reason to use Google+. But right now? I can’t think of a single reason for Google+ to even exist.