Skip to main content

Turns out Google+ isn’t for us, it’s for researching us

 Turns out Google+ isn't for us, it’s for researching us
This week at Google I/O, the company announced a slew of new features for Google+ – 41 new features, if you’re counting. These new additions inarguably make Google+ better: It’s smarter, more interactive, better looking, faster. Not to mention the massive upgrades to Photos and the Hangouts chatting client.

On paper, Google+ is a beautiful, compelling, rich product. So why don’t I care?

When Google’s answer to Facebook first launched nearly two years ago, I was a cheerleader. Like everyone else, I was frustrated by the lack of control I had over Facebook and the early signs of “Facebook fatigue” (a phrase we’re now gratuitously throwing around) were starting to set in. Google+ had been under wraps for years; it was like this Internet-wide Easter Egg that we were so excited to finally see.

And I tried really, really hard to like it. And I still don’t.

35 notifications
Notice the 35 notifications I haven’t been bothered to check in who knows how long. Image used with permission by copyright holder

I will be the first to admit that there are a handful of features that make Google+ a more viable, attractive option than Facebook. (First let’s get this out of the way: I’m not going to compare G+ to Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr because it is an all-encompassing, multi-feature, no-niche-nonsense social network … comparable, really, only to Facebook. Yell at me all you want.) For starters, photos: At launch, G+ had a bevy of options Facebook didn’t – editing tools, a slicker layout, instant emailing capabilities, higher res uploads. While Facebook’s retort has been to up its own photo game – and buy Instagram – it’s certainly not giving us anything close to the same toolbox. The new photo features just make it an even more comprehensive platform for photo-sharing (although their effectiveness thus far is debatable. Still – it’s something Facebook hasn’t given us).

The new, interactive, algorithm-learning news stream is also interesting, and certainly seems like something I should favor in comparison to the Facebook News Feed/bane of my Internet existence. It’s multi-paned, it learns from me, and discovery is hugely aided by the subject auto-tagging Google’s enabled.

Google is doing so, so much with G+. It’s incorporated photo editing, GIFs, hashtags, natural language processing technology, news feed refinement … generally, all of the things we’re constantly complaining about with Facebook. But for some reason, we can’t be convinced to buy into this beautiful madness.

And that’s because it feels like it’s all for show. Look, when G+ first launched, there was a genuine clamoring for invites – a clamoring I was not immune to (I … uh … I begged. There I said it, are you happy?). But that moment was shortlived and followed by a breathtakingly fast drop in activity.

It all feels pushed, pulled, and prodded into Google+ instead of organically originating there.

Soon after this, Google started instituting ways to make you a G+ user whether you wanted to be one or not. If you wanted to have or sign up for a Gmail account, you became a G+ user. If you wanted a YouTube account, same deal. Same went for Drive, Calendar, Music … the list went on and on. This means that people have been unwittingly and unwillingly using Google+ and filling up its stream; if you upload a YouTube video or +1 something … or even use the client for Hangouts … it’s being fed into the social network.

Some people know they’re doing this and are meaningfully posting to G+ – but some aren’t, and it’s creating a false sense of social. When I look at my feed, which is notably devoid of my close friends and family, I don’t know what was purposefully uploaded to the site and what just happened to get pulled in thanks to Google’s G+ feeding agenda. It all feels pushed, pulled, and prodded into Google+ instead of organically originating there.

When I login to Facebook, I peruse my News Feed, I respond to posts, I “like,” I might post a link. But when I login to G+ (something I haven’t done in months) and actually look at the page, something just feels … off. My general feed is full of links to industry articles from people I don’t know; my friends tab is mainly links from 1-2 people. Nothing is personal or for that matter, social.

And that’s because Google+ isn’t for us – it’s for Google. At a fireside chat during I/O, Google+ developers address some of the lurking questions about why we should be using the service. “There happens to be a product at and an app,” said G+ director of engineering David Glazer (via Forbes). “But really it’s a way for Google to get to know our users. Who they have relationships with. We give them the ability to share. That layer, that spine, that backbone, is intended to help us make search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, etc. better. That’s the real point of Google+.”

All the data Google could ever want to get out of a social network it’s getting, so there’s less of an impetus to really, truly create a user experience that rivals Facebook. Of course, more user activity and data is good, but the wide reach of Google’s services means that the layer of G+ is doing plenty when it comes to amassing user data – but it’s why we continue to feel unsatisfied whenever we login and actually look at Google+. Of course we’re also learning that the answer to Facebook isn’t a new Facebook, hence the rise of niche networks like Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram.

It’s all sort of disappointing, because there are a lot of great things about Google+, but perhaps our expectations were too high all along. We, the pundits, were the ones talking about a Facebook exodus and a Facebook Killer – not Google. Because Google never intended for G+ to be any such thing. We wanted a platform and what Google churned out was a sheep in wolf’s clothing – a feature in a platform’s disguise.

And while it’s a very, very beautiful one, you can’t reverse engineer social. Even if you really, really want to. 

Editors' Recommendations

Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
JPEG vs. PNG: When and why to use one format over the other
A person using Adobe Lightroom CC on an iMac.

In digital imaging, two image formats prevail above all else: JPEG (or JPG) and PNG.

At first glance, a single image shown in both formats might seem identical, but if you look closely enough and dig into the data, there is quite a difference between them. One format isn't always better than the other, as each is designed to be used in specific circumstances based on your needs for image quality, file size, and more. Here's what you need to know about both formats to make the most of their strengths and weaknesses.
What is the JPEG format?
Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group -- the team that developed the format -- JPEG has become the standard compressed format in digital photography and online image sharing due to its careful balance of file size and image quality.

Read more
Is there a Walmart Plus free trial? Get a month of free delivery
Walmart logo.

Take a moment and think about how often you shop at your local Walmart. Is it weekly? Daily? If either of those is the case, it might be time to upgrade your shopping experience. The Walmart Plus free trial is your chance to check out what the retail giant has to offer. Walmart Plus is basically Amazon Prime for Walmart. You get free shipping on most orders, early access to deals and new product drops (like PS5 restocks), the best grocery delivery, and more. If Walmart is your go-to option for the best smart home devices or the best tech products in general, you should get a membership. If you want to test out the service, you can sign up for a free trial. We have all the information you need right here.
Is there a Walmart Plus free trial?
There is a Walmart Plus free trial available, and it’s one of the best free trials we’ve seen in terms of how many great features and conveniences you’re able to access. This is really a reflection of how great the Walmart Plus service is, as the Walmart Plus free trial is essentially a 30-day experience of what it would be like to be a paid Walmart Plus subscriber. A Walmart Plus membership can help you save over $1,300 per year, so taking advantage of the 30-day free trial is a great way to get in there and see what those savings will look like. And if grocery delivery is what you're really after, an alternative you might consider is the Instacart free trial -- they have more than one program to try!

As part of a Walmart Plus free trial, you’ll get free shipping with no minimum order, so even small orders will qualify for free shipping. You’ll get fresh groceries and more with no delivery fees, and all at the same low in-store prices Walmart shoppers are used to. Walmart Plus members, and Walmart Plus free trial members, get exclusive access to special promotions and events, as well as a savings of up to 10 cents per gallon on fuel. A new addition to the perks of being a Walmart Plus member is free access to Paramount Plus, a top-notch streaming service with more than 40,000 TV episodes and movies. All of this is accessible for 30 days through a Walmart Plus free trial, and once those 30 days are up, Walmart Plus is just $12.95 per month or $98 annually.

Read more
The 13 best early Black Friday deals you can shop this weekend
Digital Trends Best Black Friday Deals

Even though Black Friday is still a couple of weeks away, we're already starting to see a lot of great deals on several different types of products. So, if you can't wait for the upcoming Black Friday and need to grab a few things now, we've collected some of our favorite deals across products and budget ranges to make your life a little bit easier. Below, you'll find deals on cordless vacuums, laptops, TVs, headphones, and phones, so it's a great collection of stuff that we think you'll find useful and want to grab. That said, if you can't find what you want, be sure to check our main Black Friday deals page for even more great offers.
Wyze Cordless Stick Vacuum -- $98, was $150

While budget cordless vacuum cleaners can sometimes not be that great, we found the Wyze Cordless Stick Vacuum to be surprisingly good for its price point. At just 2.8 pounds of weight, it's light enough that you won't feel like you're doing a workout every time you use it, and it is great for those who might have issues with arm weakness. Just because it's light doesn't mean it's not powerful, though, with two motors providing 24,000 pascals of suction, which is quite a lot at this price. It also has a HEPA filter to keep the air you breathe clean while vacuuming, which is impressive, but sadly, it does have a big downside in that it only lasts for about 50 minutes of vacuuming. That's not necessarily a dealbreaker, and you can buy a backup battery, but it's an important thing to note.

Read more