Facebook, it seems, is similar to America’s biggest banks that started the financial crisis in 2007: it is too big to fail. Although the scandals surrounding Facebook are piling up like leaves on the pavement, the number of its users – and its economic power – seems not to feel their effects at all.
At the same time, a relatively small security breach that exposed the personal information of only about half a million Google Plus users has led to the discontinuation of the service altogether.
To be honest, this security breach probably didn’t cause the downfall of the social network but it was rather the last straw before Google decided to pull the plug on it.
This is how Google’s attempt to go head-on with the blue giant ends. But it was not the first time the tech giant tried to grab a slice of the social media pie – and failed.
First and foremost, let’s do a recap of the Google Plus story.
Google Plus (Google+) was rolled out seven years ago with all the features one might have needed in a social media-driven digital world: posting status updates and pictures, checking in, group connections in various groups based on the types of relationships, instant messaging… overall, a pretty advanced feature set that often put its competitors to shame. Besides, it integrated perfectly with other Google services ranging from video chat to photo galleries and such. By 2016, Google+ has become a threat to Facebook’s social media supremacy, so much so that Mark Zuckerberg allegedly instituted a company-wide “lockdown” to push employees to built Facebook features that would be in line with Google’s alternative.
Google+ has grown fast but not fast enough – at its peak, its user base exceeded half a billion but the time spent on the site was, on average, just around 7 minutes. Even revamping its design, making it simpler and faster, was too little and too late for the Google-powered social network to be relevant.
Before Google+, there was Google Buzz, a Google-powered social networking and microblogging service launched in 2010. Buzz was seen by many as a Facebook-killer, considering that it was integrated with the insanely popular Gmail. Users could share links and photos, status updates and videos on Google Buzz, share updates and photos publicly or privately and was integrated with Google services like Reader, YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa, as well as third-party services like Flickr, identi.ca, and Twitter.
After just a year and a half, though, Google Buzz was retired and replaced by Google+.
Google Friend Connect
Google Friend Connect was not itself a social network but a <em>social networking script</em> allowing users to build a profile and share information with third-party services, much like the Facebook Platform and the MySpace ID. With their Google Friend Connect profile, users could spare the time and effort needed to register accounts across many online services.
This service lived for about four years – it was launched in 2008 and retired in 2012 (although Blogger still used it for a few years afterward).
Orkut was a social network created by Turkish developer Orkut Büyükkökten, a former product manager at Google, as an independent project. It was launched in January 2004, a few weeks before Facebook was rolled out, and grew quietly in certain areas – but not worldwide. While it was very popular in India and Brazil – so much so that the management and the operation of the service were taken over by Google Brazil in 2008, it didn’t make the kut (forgive the pun). Ultimately, it was retired in 2014.
Orkut had quite a few features that many would love to see Facebook copy. Among others, users could evaluate their friends as “Cool”, “Sexy”, and “Trustworthy” on a scale of 1 to 3, users could customize their profile pages, build “crush lists”, create polls, and choose colorful themes for their profiles from a library.