Five Fatal Flaws of Google+

by Thomas MORADPOUR on July 8, 2011 · 62 comments

I’m back!
It’s been over 3 months since my last post… so what brings me back to writing? Of course, the one topic everybody is talking about, Google+.

Full disclosure, I’m very curious to see how much traffic I can get from Google+ vs Twitter or Facebook, and I really needed a fresh post for that ;-) … but as I’ve been playing with the new service since day one, I have a few thoughts to share.


Yes, I have a big Google+ bias. I hate monopolies, think competition is good for users, and always take the side of a challenger… after all, I did not pick the Pepsi side of the cola war by accident.

But I’m afraid it won’t happen. At least not unless Google address some major flaws.


Circles. Already talked to death as the most innovative feature.
You can post different things to different people, rather than indiscriminately publish family photos and business blog posts to all friends, colleagues, and to your mom. Genius, and very well executed.

Also worth pointing out, the shape of the network itself.
Contrary to Facebook, Google+ lets you add people without the need for them to add you back. That makes it more public than Facebook, and contrary to GUI appearances, closer to Twitter. It also translates into a much looser definition of friends. G+ lets you add new followers to circles which you can read from and write to… or just ignore. The secret is that when you add someone, they don’t know which circle they’ve been added to

And there’s a lot of very innovative smaller features:

  • 10 people video-chat hangouts
  • social YouTube videos viewing
  • the “+” button… Google’s version of the “like”
  • “always on” integration in the Google home page
  • and what we can’t see yet, but for sure is coming – Google apps integration such as shared calendars, shared Google docs etc…

That’s the good. Let’s go to the bad and the ugly.


Yes. Google+ has a great GUI.

But spend a few days trying to manage your circles and You. Will. Go. Crazy.
It’s easy enough to add a few folks, but it just doesn’t work with hundreds. Too hard to manage who goes where… Too much work to click on full profiles just to find out who people are… And the best circle management features only work in some areas of the site.

Also on the clunky side, notifications. Really Google, there really was no way to give it a little bit of hierarchy?
Maybe like: (1) people adding me, (2) comments, +’s and shares on my posts, (3) mentions of me in other people’s posts, (4) every other stuff I’m likely not to care about… like the endless stream of further comments made to every post I comment on. Yes, sometimes I want to follow the conversation. Mostly though, I don’t, so please let me choose.

Fairness to Google, these are not “fatal” flaws. G+ is still in beta, and the Google team have been remarkably quick to adjust based on user feedback. They’ll sort it out.


Take a look at the feed from my “Friends” circle.

Now check out “Family”.

The reason they’re both empty is that none of my friends or family members have joined the service.
And here’s the trick – I invited them, they did not come.

They just don’t care. Facebook already solved their networking problem. No one loves Facebook, but everybody loves family and friends, and they are all on Facebook. Google+ is arguably a better system… but better is not enough. Google+ has to be better by leaps and bounds to convince you to go through the hassle of uprooting existing content and connections.

So who do you see using the service today?
People like me: twitter-addicts who over-use social media out of professional necessity or personal interest, and are happy to maintain a presence on every corner of the social web. Not a good sign as Google can’t thrive on just the super-users and social media elite.


Take a look at this chart.

No, really: take a look.
It’s not even a joke – it’s really how things work. Bit complicated maybe?
Too many rocket-scientists working at Google…


Circles are great. But it’s a broadcaster’s view of the world. It says “you are in control of what content you share and who you want to share it with”. OK, but the control most people want is over what content they receive and consume.

I don’t want to see the Foursquare check-ins that my friends choose to share with me.
I don’t want to read every stupid funny cartoons a blogger decides to publish as “public” between his great posts.
I simply don’t want to get every post from every person I add to my circles… I just don’t trust them to know what I’ll be interested in more than me.

And of course when brands come on board, I will want to choose to receive the promos, or the ads, or the content….


Finally, updates and posts just never stop, and filtering by circle is not enough.

My Twitterville feed is a small sign of things to come – only 70 handpicked people, and it’s already an unbearable stream of clutter. No offense guys: I think the same of my main Twitter feed, but at least tweets are shorter, so I can skim through faster.

There’s a reason 140 works - I don’t want a Twitter-feed with longer posts.
I already hated this idea when introduced it, I’m not going to start loving it now.


Ok, gotta stop now. I don’t want to put too much pressure for my next post ;-) .
But let me know what you think  in the comments section… or on Google+!

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  • Anonymous

    Good summary – I’m anti-monopoly too, but I’m still highly against managing another network of people and duplicating content / discussions / etc.   I still haven’t seen the value or slam dunks that G+ will bring to the table to cause me to abandon (or repost) what I’m doing with LInkedIn or Facebook.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      I’m with you on this – the cost of duplicating (time, fragmentation of the discussions etc…) is just too high for me too.
      One redeeming factor I have to point out since posting this article though… in the time it took to get 2 comments on my blog, I already have more than 15 on Google+… My source of traffic to the article is roughly 1 from Google+ for every 2 from Twitter… but I only have 400 people following me on G+ vs 6,000 on Twitter.

      • Colin T Williams

        Wait…y’all are looking to throw your support behind Google because you are anti-monopoly?   Please explain this logic.

        • Thomas Moradpour

          I’d rather have Facebook and Google keep each other honest and innovative in social, rather than seeing Google focus on a search monopoly, and Facebook on a social monopoly. Yes, they’re both getting too big, but that’s another story ;-)

  • Jeremy Powers

    I haven’t tried Google+, and I doubt I will this year. My clients expect me to keep them up-to-date and effective on the platforms that matter, and Google+ is not anywhere near the top 5 places they need to be engaging online.

    I will keep monitoring and reading about it. With Facebook still constantly making changes, however, I can’t imagine how frequently first year Google+ members are going to be frustrated with updates.

    The only reason I have any interest, or even knowledge of the platform is because social media is “part of what I do.” As a general consumer, I have ZERO interest in another social platform. As a consumer, I have tried Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Reader sharing, YouTube, and about 10 different photo sharing platforms.

    I don’t need another platform to generate communication noise. I would rather Google focused it’s efforts to create a decent CRM-style system for individuals. (How many of us complain about getting the same blog posts, photos, and notifications shared on multiple platforms. Unnecessary redundancy is the the core problem today, NOT lack of a place to communicate.)

    Thanks for you early thoughts. I always enjoy your articles.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Thanks Jeremy.
      I love your thought of focusing efforts on reducing duplication rather than adding to it. I’d love to see them do that!Tom

    • Carl Draper

      you won’t need another social network, Google+ will replace Facebook once all the users have switched! :D

    • Lia Keyes

      “Public” shares from Google+ will be more  visible in Google searches than any other networks, because it’s inevitable that Google will favor it’s own network. Just something to consider as you choose.

  • Marjie Snyder

    I have to agree… I’m in the business to know as much as I can about what new SM “tool” might effect our client’s online presence. But G+ seems to leave me with more questions than answers right now. Personally I think it’s cool, but do I need this. Do I care. Did facebook even bother me before Google announced this. Do I like circles vs lists. Am I here because it’s a new shiny toy. How do I keep up with both of these. And do I keep up with both of these. Does one need to go.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      All fair questions Marjie!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Kurtfrenier

    Thanks Thomas! I was planning to try it out. You convinced me not to waste my time ;-)

    • Thomas Moradpour

      You should still take it out for a spin. To see how it works; there’s a lot of good in it :-)

    • Carlahassan

      kurt. i agree with Tom. you should try it out. it takes a while to get through it all and figure out the different functions. i’m still getting through it admitedly, but I think Tom brings up some interesting points that i’m hoping google will figure out.. Tom, i think all your points are valid but flaw #2 is the one I’m most worried about. 750 million people already have their network set up and are connected with their family, friends and colleagues.. the question is do they have the patience and the time to do something new.. 

      • Thomas Moradpour

        A Carla comment!Agree with you… and flaw 3 only reinforces flaw 2… G+ is not as straightforward to “get” as its sleek GUI suggests.I think Google’s challenge will be to find and appeal to “magnet users”.Google can’t shift your entire network overnight, but what if they managed to find those very few people who you think are the real “life of the party” in your network? How many of your coolest relationships would you need to know are now on G+ to think that G+ is the place to be? You have 600 FB friends, but what if your best friend was on G+? What if the coolest 5 people you know were there? What if those guys who always cracked you up with the best content told you “we’re moving”? Makes it more of a targeting and recruitment issue than a tech issue.We’ll see. Fun times anyway.Tom

        • Raissa

          The trick there is that people who are “the life of the party” tend to wander to new pastures, WHILE staying in the old until their people migrate. The entertainer needs an audience, after all.

  • Anonymous

    Two Words. ‘Field Trial’.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t used it yet — still don’t have an invite. But in all fairness, it is rather new, still. Like anything else, Google+ is subject to early adopters and late adopters alike. I’m holding out that it will survive and kick everyone in the pants, so much so we “never saw it coming.”

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Hey Joey, thanks for the comments.
      Happy to invite you when the next window opens – they let people every other day it seems. DM me an email address ;-)

  • lily zajc

    Really great points, especially the “Will User “A” see my post” graphic!  Alot of nicks and bumps that Google + in it’s infancy has to smooth out. Perhaps a “simplification” app could be included! : ) 

  • Shannon M.

    I’ve been hesitating about jumping on the Google+ train and after reading this and some other reviews I’m still holding out.  Yes, those of us who are in the techy/marketing/social media world need to be ‘in the know’ but in order to make this as ubiquitous as FB it needs to get out to the rest of the country beyond the coasts. I think your point about invites sent to Friends/Family says it all there.  

    • Thomas Moradpour

      I’ll have to change my story as ONE friend has joined since posting this article.
      But it involved a lot of convincing!!!Tom

  • Greg Macek

    Hey Thomas,

    I appreciate your post and views on Google+. While I definitely understand the concerns you raise and share some of them, I also find it premature for many of us to be so harsh to judge a service that was officially released within the past few weeks with a relatively small user base. However, I’m also confused by your post because in one section you state that Circles are great and well executed, but later go on to say that they are clunky and hard to manage. (Admittedly, any sort of list management whether on G+, Twitter, or Facebook becomes a burden with more people. I think it’s probably why people in general also don’t want to label/file email anymore and leave everything in their inbox. “Just search for it!” But I digress.) Either you share with everyone or you limit it. At this point, I’m not sure how you easily simplify that process for people. 

    The other challenge of not wanting every great post from every person is that you can’t know what you don’t want to receive until it’s shared. I don’t always want to hear things from people in person, but it’s not always a choice to not take it in. 

    I continue to look forward to what Google will bring to the world with +. And to those commenting that they don’t need another place to communicate, you’re absolutely right. We don’t. But it’s the neverending work towards progress and changing, hopefully for the better. What if we all just stopped at Friendster or MySpace and said “We got what we need, let’s work with this.”? I’m not sure we’d be in a better world. :)  

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Hi Greg,
      First, thanks for reading and commenting in such a thoughtful way. I have to say I don’t agree with a few points you’re making but welcome the different point of view!Let me clarify a detail upfront – it was indeed a bit confusing in the post. I do like the ease with which I can use circles to manage content publishing. It’s great and makes me more comfortable sharing both personal and pro content knowing it won’t go to the wrong people. The net result is probably that Google+ users will share more than on other networks. What I don’t like is:1. the circles people management features, i.e. how you manage who is in which circle. It’s clunky.2. the lack of control on the content you receive… especially knowing that the G+ system will encourage MORE sharing by its users.I believe that easy control of the content you consume is more important than easy control of the content you broadcast. After all, it’s the direction every piece of content edition and publishing is taking – content edited by and relevant to the user, not by and to the broadcaster. The one who cracks this will bring a significant added value… perhaps enough to overcome the exit barrier.I hope G+ evolves into something that has more than the value required to displace Facebook and give a reason to users to switch. Unfortunately for them, they are not facing a MySpace or Friendster who had much smaller scale, and made big mistakes that helped the new guys gain leadership. I agree with you 100% in progress, and that nothing can’t be beaten; I just think that THIS is not the service that will beat Facebook, at least not it its current form.I agree that I’m quick to judge. I’ll revise my judgement as things go. So let’s keep an eye on it and keep debating!

      • Greg Macek

        I think I better understand what you’re possibly looking for. It’s almost a way of “rating” incoming content and having Google (or anybody) know how to filter that content in or out of the main stream you view. I guess I would best relate it to Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature and the ability to rate messages up or down so it can better filter in the future. I do like that idea quite a bit and agree I don’t always want to receive everything a publisher/broadcaster is pushing out there. Maybe I’d only want offer/coupon posts from a store, but not stuff about opening new stores or how they’ve partnered with some other company to be more awesome. A social network stream that could learn what you want to read about as it goes… I love the idea!

        • Thomas Moradpour

          that’s right!

  • Matt Conlon

    I think I probably agrre with you completely. I think it’s a very interesting, powerful tool, but I don’t think it fills enough of a void. Had it come out first, perhaps? I think it will “wave” goodbye…

    • Thomas Moradpour


  • Carl Draper

    not having all your friends and family on G+ is not a fatal flaw! It’s still in beta and invite (when enabled) only. It’s still early days. I can think of far worse flaws in Facebook and it’s been going for years! Also Facebook feels clunky compared with the sprightly G+ interface.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Yet what is telling so far is the lack of curiosity or interest beyond social media addicts.
      That’s the more concerning piece for me – G+ so far has established without the shadow of a doubt that it can capture the super users and social-media types. Can they do the same with the “ordinary” users that make the bulk of Facebook ranks? not sure……
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Carl!Tom

      • Kevin Reid

        Thanks for the post. Your statement rings true to me, that there is a  ”lack of curiosity or interest beyond social media addicts”  Google must know how many people are swimming in the Facebook pool who barely keep their head around that platform. How likely are those people to jump into learning a whole new ecosystem? We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

        Personally, I think G+ is a grand step forward  in social – and I look forward to connecting those who have the “curiosity and interest”  
        See you there, 

  • Saima Sabahat

    Really valid points :)

  • Saima Sabahat

    Really valid points :)

  • Pcunix

    First, I detest FB and would love to see it disappear.  

    Second, if anyone can screw up an app, it’s Google.    Hatred of FB is supposedly just a little less than hatred of the IRS, so the game is theirs to take, but I have serious doubts that they can.

    I do think G+ is a good start.  

    Perhaps Google should take a lesson from the old Newsgroups for circles.  Allow topic based public circles and let us “killfile” anyone abusing the topic.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      LOL! let’s see what happens. I would not hold my breath on FB disappearing in the short term though :-)

  • Deep S.

    You nailed it my man!

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Thanks mate!

  • Simon Huhtala

    I don’t have a FB account, so am routinely looking over the walls of the FB garden to see the SM treasures kept inside.
    Many serious people I know will maintain a LinkedIn account for business, Twitter effectively for real time chatter/news, but have steered clear of FB because of it’s early adopters, it all seemed a bit juvenile, plus there were a few dodgy privacy issues to boot.
    What a difference a few years make, now that the whole space has evolved I’m keen to be a part of a widely adopted SM community and have been looking at G+ with interest precisely because of Google’s stature, extant ecosystem, and the likelihood that it will offer something substantial enough to break the Facebook hegemony.

    It’s seems ironic that Google is the underdog in this particular battle.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      The irony is not lost on me !


  • Tom Henrich

    “They just don’t care. Facebook already solved their networking problem. No one loves Facebook, but everybody loves family and friends, and they are all on Facebook.”That statement sums up my issues with G+. Not to say that the other things pointed out above aren’t valid, but like many people have stated, Google is making revisions constantly to improve those “flaws.” To me, the social part of it is the part that’s going to make or break the service. 

    Yes, we early adopters think it’s great and it’s the holy grail and the next coming and all that, and we’re quick to jump on the bandwagon (and off of Facebook’s high-speed high-tech magrail).

    But to the majority of people, they don’t care if it’s fancier or shinier. It’s new, and there’s no one there, and everyone they know is already on Facebook so why switch? I know FB had the same problem early on, but it had the advantage of being (basically) the first of its kind. Google is moving into a space that’s already occupied, and people don’t want to move.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Never easy to be second-mover, you’re right!

      Thanks for reading and commenting Tom!

  • Mike Ventura

    Tom – I think you’ve hit on some salient points about G+. I’d like to add a couple of more. As Google did with Buzz, the point of entry seems to be GMail or your Google profile. If you have both, great. But, I’m constantly surprised how many of my social savvy friends do not yet have Google profiles. And few of my friends use GMail as a primary email account. Secondly, I agree with you about Circle management. Thirdly, it’s a new behavior to learn. As much as Facebook changes on an almost daily basis, they’ve become the driver in social UI. It’s like reading works left to right and top to bottom (at least in the western world) and everything that followed, books, newspapers, magazines, outdoor – all adopted this behavior. When do we reach overload on learning new digital social behavior? We’ve had Facebook (and maybe MySpace ) and Twitter and LinkedIn…When does the everyday person (not the social geek beta testers) say “enough already!”

    I remember an online discussion that I had sometime back with the guys at Mashable over Buzz. I thought the flaw was the GMail point of entry. Mashable touted Buzz all over the place as the next thing to sliced bread. Look what happened.I don’t think we’ll really know if G+ adapts until it gets out in the real world. Not sure that I’d bet on it at this point.

    • Thomas Moradpour

      I agree with your point on Gmail… while it does not seem like much to savvy users, it just adds another hoop people have to go through and wrap their heads around. Definitely not a “one click to register” affair!
      Cheers, Tom

  • Susan

    Funny, hubby and I were discussing this just this morning.  We agree that G+ has to be leaps and bounds better in order to get most people to join in.  It takes too much time to do them all and they are already established on FB. 

  • gilcarvr

    i had no intention of adding family or friends to google + they bore me to tears on fb already… but after three days i not only deleted google+…. i deleted all google accounts across all google properties… 

    if i’m not allowed by google to ratchet down a decent level of privacy, i am not interested… honestly, i have no interest in using my real name on any social media … ever…  i just don’t understand the full on assault for “no privacy” by the likes of google…

    done… finished… kaput…

    • Thomas Moradpour

      Not sure I subscribe to this point of view… but thanks for sharing it!

      Cheers,. Tom

  • gilcarvr

    i had no intention of adding family or friends to google + they bore me to tears on fb already… but after three days i not only deleted google+…. i deleted all google accounts across all google properties… 

    if i’m not allowed by google to ratchet down a decent level of privacy, i am not interested… honestly, i have no interest in using my real name on any social media … ever…  i just don’t understand the full on assault for “no privacy” by the likes of google…

    done… finished… kaput…

  • Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    HAHA! You jumped in huh?

    I think it is a great start and if they are nimble and make some fixes it could be good. I agree with curation and filters it should go both ways. Also if I don’t share anything publicly the ‘followers’ who you have no connection with won’t see any posts correct? I would think they would drop away.

    It would be great to have a way to have blog posts or other content with a tag that can be filtered that way or steer them into a separate location (like RSS but more than blogs)

    I did some math from a recent Pew Research Study on Tuesday about how little we use Facebook. This feels different because I had a big wall between work connections (mostly just on Twitter) and real friends (mostly just on Facebook). And I feel I can meld both here in a way I can safely share  ‘self curating’ who sees what.

    The main problem for these networks is volume of content. Twitter obviously has more posts per person per day than Facebook by a magnitude. US Facebook user averages only 1 status update every 6.67 days. Both networks if I am lucky I see 2-3% of the Feed each day due to volume. Which makes Marketing in scale really hard to impossible. With so many variables to have a 1% chance of reaching someone every post while free is still too much a crap shoot.

    I think the money is making a Person to Person Comm Platform we must have just like cell phones are. One we will pay for like Broadband or Netflix. And Google can integrate everything from shopping, gps/maps/travel, email, voice, data, video (you tube and maybe hulu) But P2P to me would allow them to

  • No

    I came here looking for something different but I read, and feel the need to comment, dude that chart is not super complicated.
    Consider the facebook model.  Will “User A” see my post?  ->  Yes.  Except that it’s more like -> yes but it will be hidden under an unsortable pile of garbage.
    Apparently the model you are looking for is “Will user A see my post?” -> Magic -> if I want them to, yes.
    Which, under the hood, is what google’s algorithm is attempting to do.
    So whadda ya want?

  • Pingback: How soon is now? » Blog Archive » Google+ Won’t Kill Facebook or Twitter, Google Has a Bigger Agenda

  • Vivek Nandur

    I love how you titled this article as “five fatal flaws of google” when NONE of your “flaws” are even close to fatal.  

    You just seem to have a problem with the circles.  I personally just add everyone to my friends circle unless they are my family.  Two circles is pretty easy to manage.  

  • Peterson Silva

    3: Well, whenever you want to share something with someone in real life, you’ll go through the same questions. Just have a look. You don’t have to worry if your close friend will see what you’re sharing. Of fucking course he has you in a circle, and it’s easy to say “I want to share this with him”. If you want to share something specific with someone you don’t know well… Well, how’d you manage that? Send an e-mail, then, or something. Like you’d send a letter in real life.

    4. Streams?

  • Raissa Evans

    It does make me wonder how much more territory they could steal if they integrate a decent way to blog via G+. Facebook has always surprised me at being so BAD at that. It feels like this is coming soon from G+, and not in the form of these “in-line” blogs because the posts can each be long (have we discovered a character limit yet? I’m not aware.)

    Great article, Tom, thanks for your insights. Now where’s the +1 button for your post? ;)

  • Pingback: Our Advice on Google Plus: Wait. | The Measured Voice Blog

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    It’s perhaps a matter of personality…I specially like (so far) what you call “flaw 3″!!!  If you are looking for control of your own posts and information, this seems (seems) better than Facebook.

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