Google Plus + Google Agenda = Facebook Win

Google Branded BaloneyGoogle+ is getting scaled back: Google announced Monday that it will pare some features away from Google+ and move others to Google services "where [they] really belong." Google+ will also no longer be required to access Google services, including YouTube.

In other words, Google proved that not even a company as large, wealthy, and smart as Google can compete with Facebook, especially when it designs a social networking service around its own agendas rather than its product users.

Google+ was conceived as a social networking service, but it was morphed into an umbrella service intended to force all Google users into attaching their identities to their Web presence. Google has long wanted to strip anonymity away from users, largely because it serves the company's business model of selling us to advertisers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to realityville: Google+ failed. Mostly. Don't get me wrong, it's still around, but it's a distant also-ran to Facebook. Beyond its hardcore adherents and the echo chamber, most folks don't think about Google+. Ever.

Think about these things for a moment:

  1. Google's mindshare in search is near-absolute. The company's brand is powerful and mostly positive.
  2. There are more than a billion Android users on the planet. Theoretically, most of those people have Google+ accounts.
  3. Google made the rest of us sign up for Google+ to access most of its non-search services, too.
  4. Many of us have a love/hate with Facebook that plumbs the depths of dysfunctionality.

With all that going for it, you'd think Google+ would have become the next...Google.

And yet, Google+ is being right-sized, as the polite might call it. While Google said in a blog post that it will continue to add services to Google+, it moved "many elements of Google+ Photos" to the Google Photos app, and location sharing is being decoupled from Google+.

The most important change, though, is that you will be able to access YouTube content and other services with any Google account, rather than your Google+ account. That's a big step back from Google+ as the all encompassing platform.

Social networking is about connecting with other people. LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Foursquare, Facebook—even Game of War—all tap into our innate desire to connect with other people. Starting with that premise is at the heart of all of those successful services, apps, and games.

Google, on the other hand, made a huge mistake by trying to meld a place for us to make connections with an all seeing eye. It makes a lot of sense for Google to want to attach everything we do to us, with our real names, but it's not something we want. It fills no need. It creates no want. It doesn't even do anything for us, let alone start down the path of delighting us.

Google+ was what Google wanted it to be, and that's a terrible foundation for a social networking site. Even if you're Google.