1. Google+ has lost its early momentum. Is it the new Chrome, or the new Wave?

    Posted August 4, 2011 in social media  |  1 Comment so far

    Remember Google Chrome? It was a browser that Google launched in 2008. They said it’d be as well-known as Firefox and Safari and Internet Explorer and Konqueror. And it had a logo that looked like a Pokéball.

    Google Chrome logo mashup

    Image courtesy of labnol.org

    Ring a bell? Yes? Of course, I knew you’d remember the Pokéball. So what happened to Chrome? At first everyone was really enthusiastic about it but then they got bored and usage dropped off. People who look at browser statistics started saying that Chrome was a failure within a few months of launch:

    Usage of Chrome peaked soon after its launch to about 3.1% share of the browsers market, after which users pretty much lost interest and went to their usual browser making Chrome’s market share down to a steady 1.5%…

    And I was describing Chrome as a Google mis-fire in December 2008:

    Like around 3% of the internet I installed and started using Chrome when it came out. However, I’m not among the 0.83% of the internet who are still using it…

    So given that the writing was so obviously on the wall for Chrome, it’s not surprising that hardly anyone remembers it nowadays, right? Right?

    …OK, time to drop this strained rhetorical device. The point, in case you haven’t guessed, is that a lot of people – me included – called time on Chrome when its brief honeymoon period ended. A couple of years later and these doubters – yes, me included – were proven wrong. In fact, Chrome’s just overtaken Firefox as the UK’s second most popular browser. An early stumble doesn’t always mean impending doom.

    More recently, another new Google product has come off the starting blocks only to falter in its first few strides: Google+. Despite initial enthusiasm the buzz is dying down and traffic has dropped off from its early weeks. People are talking about “giving up” on it.

    Can Google+ take heart from what happened to Chrome? Or is it doomed? Let’s look at a couple of arguments either way.

    “Google+ will rule over us all and bring light to the darkest corners of the Earth”

    Let’s compare Google+ to Twitter. To begin, how many of you had even heard of Twitter in May 2006 when it was as old as Google+ is now? I hadn’t, and I’m a committed geek. It took Twitter ages to get even recognisably close to its current levels of popularity.

    Remember spring 2009, and how there was so much confusion about what Twitter was for? That was three years into Twitter’s lifespan. Google+ has only been around for three months, and already has 25 million users. Judged by Twitter’s standards, that growth rate is positively stratospheric.

    The same applies to Facebook – it didn’t get to half a billion users in its first three months, did it? So who cares about a minor dip in traffic? Google+ is destined for greatness.

    “Google+ is doomed! Escape before it sinks beneath the waves or you’ll be doomed too”

    Let’s go back to the comparison between G+ and Chrome. So Chrome had an early stumble but then recovered? Fair enough. But there are differences between G+ and Chrome – big differences.

    Imagine you’re a Chrome user and you love it. You uninstalled IE. You uninstalled Firefox. Hell, you even uninstalled Minesweeper – Chrome is that good. Then you find out that no-one else in the world uses Chrome, no-one apart from you. Do you care?

    No, not at all. Your immediate experience of using Chrome is unaffected by others using it or not. But Google+, as a social product, is more exposed to network effects – if no-one you know uses Google+, it’s next to useless. If everyone you knew uses it, it is useful even if it’s a shockingly poor product (cf. Myspace). So the sophomore dip in traffic is meaningful for G+ in a way that it wasn’t for Chrome. When a social product like Google+ loses its users, it loses everything.

    So what’ll happen to G+?

    My gut instinct isn’t all that positive. I like it – there’s something a bit “old-school-internet” about my own personal experience of G+, probably because of the specific people I’ve been connecting to there. But I’ve been involved in launching and running quite a few “online communities” (remember them?) in my time and I notice some telltale signs among the people I follow. Not enough posts. Too many ghost speakers, links cast off into the void that spark no discussion, no debate.

    Healthy online communities need some tension, some arguments, some passion, some disagreements. Maybe that’s what Google+ needs so that it feels less like a lab and more like a space for life and all its anger and mess. So let’s post some flamebait and check back in six months to see how it’s getting on.

  2. I can’t work out why Google Chrome use grew so much in early 2009

    Posted December 9, 2010 in software  |  5 Comments so far

    A few days ago Google announced its new operating system, the Chrome OS – here’s a link to the official announcement.

    One thing that caught my eye was this graph showing the growth of the Chrome browser since its launch in 2008:

    Chrome usage since September 2008

    See the dip that comes only a few weeks in? I was part of that, because I abandoned Chrome around then too. If my experience is anything to go by, that dip was largely caused by people going back to Firefox because they missed the add-ons.

    You’ll also notice an even more dramatic upsurge that comes in the first quarter of 2009. What made so many people start using Chrome back then?

    It wasn’t support for extensions – they didn’t launch properly until January 2010. It might have been the Chrome TV ad, but that wasn’t aired until May 2009. So what could it have been? This is going to be annoying me all day…