Like everyone else, I’ve spent the best part of Tuesday seeing if I could get an invite to Google+ latest social service. I e-mailed a few contacts at Google, with not much luck, but I’ve slowly come to the realization that I don’t actually want one.
Cast your mind back to the heady days of June 2009, when Google first announced its ill-fated Wave project. Somehow, I’m still not entirely sure how, I managed to snag an invite relatively early on. “Brilliant,” I thought, “my communications will be revolutionized!” Then I logged on, and found no-one on there except an acquaintance that I really had no interest in talking to.
That’s the problem with limiting access to social services. They rely on the “network effect” — where the nodes of the network get more powerful as the number of nodes increases. In plain English, that means that a social site becomes increasingly useful as more of your friends join up to it.
By limiting the number of people who can join Google+, Google is hugely limiting what kind of experience those people will have. Early adopters have plenty of influence on mainstream opinion and love to boast, so if they log into a barren wasteland then you can bet they’ll be telling their friends that “yeah, I’m on Google+, but it’s not that great”.
I can’t entirely figure out why Google’s opted for such a limited release. Surely one of the largest tech companies in the world can’t be short of server capacity? (disclaimer: I am not a network engineer). If it’s just for testing and early feedback, and it’s not ready yet, then why the all-singing, all-dancing assault of videos explaining what it does?
I’d have thought Google would have learnt the lessons of the Wave fiasco. That doesn’t appear to have been the case. Google+ might the best social service that the world has ever seen, but until it’s widely accessible, it’ll be terrible.