Three months ago, Google launched its latest salvo in the social media war against Facebook. To be fair, it's about as evenly matched a war as my cat and the ball of paper. Or the All Blacks and Japan. But, despite the mismatch, all sorts of us declared that David was virtually certain to beat Goliath -- only, in this case, David has a market cap of $175 billion and Goliath is 5'8.5" tall and wears hoodies.
But that was three months ago. Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported some grim statistics: "Available through invite only, the service launched strong, quickly reaching 25 million users. But in less than three months' time, daily posts made by these users have dropped an alarming 41 percent."
Like the media following a presidential campaign ("Squirrel?") we have moved on -- although, we haven't actually moved on, have we? We've moved back. We tried briefly to rocket past the gravitational pull of 750 million of our peers and realized we were nowhere near escape velocity.
At the same time, Facebook hasn't exactly been sleeping. It has taken a few pages straight out of the Plus playbook, beefing up its friendship lists and adding a "subscription" feature that replicates the public/private capabilities of G+. And, just like that, any argument I had for using Google+ is gone.
It doesn't really matter if Circles are more beautiful and intuitive than friend lists; they are not easier to use, because to use them I also have to factor in the additional and irritating effort of transferring my social graph to the new network. This is the problem with creating a service that competes on features: the incumbent, with all its attendant inertia, can so easily match you, and even if they only do it half as well they will win because, at heart, we aren't desperately seeking a new social network. We might love to hate the one we have, but it's not really all that broken.
All is not lost for the giant of Mountain View. When I check my Google+ stream I've got at least three people updating, unlike Buzz, which only ever boasted updates from my fellow columnist and hero social media user David Berkowitz. (David, of course is one of the three posting to G+.) The first Google+ API launched today, which may or may not prompt developers to release the kind of infectious apps that provoked such widespread adoption of Facebook. Tom Anderson makes an excellent argument for why we'll use Google+ whether we want to or not, thanks to its strategy of targeting niche sub-groups.
But the excitement has most definitely abated. I don't believe Google+ will ever challenge Facebook for domination of the mass market -- yet, who knows? Like my cat, who has just renewed her battle with the bit of paper, we are fickle creatures. And the future, as always, remains to be seen.
I'm really interested to know: are you using Google+? And Facebook, too -- or instead of it? Why or why not?