How often do you visit Google+? I'll give you a second to think about it. So, if you are anything like me or essentially the rest of society, the answer is: not often. That's because, despite Google's determination to get you to use Plus, it's just not that good and, if we are being completely honest, Facebook is simply better. In short, Facebook won and it's time for Google to let it go.
I don't think anyone would really care if it weren't for the fact that it has become so invasive. Every Gmail account is now attached to Plus. Every app Google has asks you to share your information on Plus. If you are signed in and you do a search, it shows you what people in your circles have posted on a particular subject. Find something on a map? Hey, why not post on Plus about it? ENOUGH!
Just over a year ago, if you had any kind of Google account, you were forcibly added to Plus. There was no opting out. If you didn't want to be on Plus, you had to quit Google altogether. That means if all you wanted was a simple Gmail account, you were required to be on Google Plus as well.
Then there are all sorts of name requirements that some have speculated are directly related to Plus. Google does not allow Gmail names shorter than six characters. They say this is to prevent spam because they have found shorter names often indicate spam e-mail or are targeted more often by spammers. There is even some indication that if you had a Gmail account with a short name prior to this change, you are simply suspended when they find out. Nice.
It is clear that the reason Plus has become such a central focus for Google is the same reason Facebook has stepped up its search function. The more people signed up and sharing, the more data Google can collect and the better their targeting of advertisements. Thing is, Google could do that without forcing everyone onto Plus, but it would be tougher.
Now, those who don't use Google for anything can search the site and use maps without logging in. They can track that usage and even pinpoint your general location, but they don't know who you are, specifically. If you are logged in, they can more easily track your habits, dramatically increasing the detail in their data collection, and advertisers pay big bucks for that.
At some point, if Plus becomes a barren ghost town of a social media network, Google may just have to throw in the towel out of embarrassment. For now, they muddle along and force us all to come with them.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.