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J.D. Rothman Headshot

Letter to Google: Why G+ Gets an F-

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Dear Google,

Until recently, I adored everything about you. In fact, I was one of your first fans. No AltaVista or Yahoo for me. Your search engine, a marvel of technology and a masterpiece of minimalist design, won my heart from the moment it hit the www. A simple white screen producing answers to all the questions in the universe in a nanosecond: A life-changing innovation for all.

Your other products rocked my world as well. I embraced Gmail from the moment I switched from the anachronistic, embarrassingly retro AOL. I became obsessed with Google Maps when I realized that it could give me not only driving directions, but also ways to get from Santa Monica to Singapore via kayak.

And we have a special, cosmic connection: We are astrological twins. Yes, Google, I proudly share your birthday, and I save screenshots of all the cool designs you put up in our honor.

So it is with the utmost respect that I ask, that when it comes to Google Plus... what were you thinking? G+ is the polar opposite of the verbworthy Google. Compared to your other products, it is so unintuitive and complicated that most of us have to do some Googling just to figure out what it is... not to mention why we have it or what we're supposed to do with it.

Searching for the Meaning of Google Plus: FAQs

1) Qu'est-ce_que_c'est‎? You have thrown the blogosphere into an existential crisis. People acknowledge that G+ is 'good for business,' or 'good for SEO,' or that it adds a 'social layer' to other platforms. Is it a Facebook alternative - if so, where's the Words With Friends and how can I spy on my kids? (Most millennials ignore G+; in fact, they've been ditching most social media for the commitment-phobic Snapchat). Or is G+ just a Rolodex with recipes, a souped-up Linkedin? The lengthy tutorials going around make it seem unfathomable that it came from the same brilliant team who got their jobs because they could explain how to escape from a giant blender.
2) Did someone drug me and sign me up? Was I was inducted by Big Brother while in a coma? Like many others, I awoke one day enveloped in mysterious circles. Nice to be wanted, but nobody ever asked if I wanted to join. And as soon as I uploaded my photo, my G+ identity began following me all over the web, from Picasa to YouTube to Zagat. Now that I'm so connected, no anonymous activity or comments for me!
3) How do I get there? I do appreciate the personalized URL you sent me, but you smart people at Google should know that nobody can remember anything that has dots and forward slashes in it. So to get to G+ I'm forced to make a stopover, changing terminals at gmail, where I get distracted by my inbox. "Hang on, G+! I'm on my way. As soon as I grab a bite at Sbarro, I'll hop on the Sky Tram."
4) Once I'm there, what should I do? G+ feels like an altered dimension, where the surroundings look familiar, but the rules are fuzzy. Should I post the same photo I just put up on Instagram? Should I attempt to re-rekindle relationships with all my camp friends from Facebook and the pundits I follow on twitter? Or should I check out 'What's Hot and Recommended,' even though it's the same Upworthy video that was making the rounds three weeks ago. And do I reward someone with a +1 if I've already 'liked' the identical post elsewhere in cyberspace?
5) Who are these random folks in my circles? Dorothy, you're not in Zuckerville anymore, where you know all your friends. G+ is like a Jetsonesque cul de sac populated by neighbors who you've only seen a few times at Costco. I appreciate all the emails about people who have crossed over to the plus side, but sorry, their names don't ring a bell. Google gives each one an enthusiastic intro: 'Your contact Kate the Caterer (who you emailed in 2008 about a tapas party) has joined G+! Why not take ten minutes to figure out which circle to drag her into: People I Met Once, or People I Don't Know at All, or People Who Look Like Losers But Might Eventually be Good for Business.'
6) The Content Conundrum. If you have a site or a blog and you post something on G+, you are competing with yourself for SEO. Clearly, you guys at Google will one day own everything on the Internet. But until then, do I post just part of my real post, enticing others to go over to the original? It all goes 'round and 'round in a circle game.

Google, O, Google, I realize that you worked long and hard on this new social destination, and that as we speak you are probably figuring out a way to cut down on the duplicate cuddly kitten photos on my page (do I even call it a page... is it a layer?). I also realize that once I publish this letter, I might jeopardize all the awesome SEO that directed people to my blog, my book and my IMDb.

So, because your other endeavors are so magnificent, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it's just too early on for me to comfortably hang out in this new realm that one blogger likened to his "uncle's basement." Once you hang up some interesting posters, everything might be okay.

Meanwhile, I beg you to invite me up to Mountain View and include me in your next focus group. When am I available? Um...you already know, because you can see my calendar. And how should you contact me? Just add me to a circle or two, and we'll talk.

Best regards,
Your Friend (Work Friend?) (Acquaintance?)

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