Google+ has struggled to gain ground against other social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter since its very late arrival on the scene back in the end of June. A lot of ink has been spilled trying to figure out why the service has failed to engage people given Google's massive built-in userbase with Gmail and Picasa since its public launch at the end of September. This week it's clear that Google+'s problems aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
First, a report has been published by data analytics firm Chitika which finds that after the opening of Google+ to the public on September 20th there was a 1200 percent surge in users, only to quickly fall off again about 60 percent back to it's pre-public state. What this means, of course, is that "regular" users have failed to be engaged by Google+ in the same way that early adopters may have -- though even early users have been notably sparse with updates. Google+ has had about 25 million unique visitors in its 4-week existence, which is a massive figure, but one which fails to paint an accurate portrait of the state of the service.
Chikita proposes two premises on its blog post about the Google+ numbers. First, it says that there is a finite number of users of social networks, meaning that services are in competition with each other for a limited base of customers, which, they say, means that to stand out, you "provide a service that others do not." However, while the social network user-base is undoubtedly limited, it would seem that differentiation is just one factor, and that quality of what the service provides is just as important, meaning that if Google+ does the same thing as say, Twitter, it can still succeed as long as it does that same thing better.
The problems for Plus don't stop there, however, as a Google engineer published a screed on the service's failures this week, as well. High-profile Google employee Steve Yegge somewhat ironically published his rant to Google+ publicly although he'd intended to share it with an internal, employee-only circle (this is the reason I'd never consider using any social network for business). Regardless of who the post was intended for, Yegge makes it clear that he doesn't think Google+ is the answer to the company's social networking woes:
Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone.
Yegge has since removed the post, and there has been no official response from Google about his arguments, nor does it seem likely there will be. It is increasingly clear, however, that Google+ has some major hurdles to overcome if it's going to be a true contender in the space.