Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


It was a seminal moment.

Or, at least, that's what Google wanted you to believe.

June 28, 2011 was to go down as the day when Google wrestled Facebook in the cloying mud of social networking and would come out dirty but victorious.

Because its new social network -- Google+ -- was just so much better.

Here we are five years later with vast online parties, Million Man Hangouts, and marches through the streets of major world cities, all to celebrate the 5th birthday of Google+.

Wait, that may not be quite correct.

Please let me ask you: when was the last time you even thought about Google+?

When you log onto YouTube and Google desperately tries to inform you that you have some Google+ notifications?

In 2011, Google was right to see that Facebook was heading toward monopoly.

Facebook's achievement hadn't been that it was garlanded by brilliant minds. It simply had no competition and made no gross mistakes.

Google's biggest problem, however, was its very Googlieness.

The place is run by engineers whose instinctive feeling for humanity is akin to the instinctive feeling Donald Trump has for, excuse me, reasoned argument.

It was clear that Google was going to attempt to force people onto its site by making them have Google+ accounts in order to log in to other Google properties.

But would that make the service suddenly attractive?

Google+ wasn't even the company's first attempt at social networking.

That was called Google Buzz. Oh, you don't remember it?

Still, when Google+ launched, it was a hot ticket. It was invitation-only at first. You could secure yourself a precious invitation on eBay. For 99 cents.

Google+ wasn't simple. Concepts such as Circles -- in which you were supposed to group certain types of friends -- walked the line between complex and unnatural.

The interface wasn't exactly inviting either. Again, there was a lack of instinctive simplicity.

Yet at the time of launch, those who ran the site were bullishly, arrogantly confident.

I received a lecture from the executive in charge of the whole thing, Vic Gundotra.

I made have made a couple of jokes in an article. They weren't even jokes critical of Google+. I wrote about Google's need to get real, ordinary people on board its new creation. That was the only way it could truly grow.

But in weighed Gundotra -- I'm not sure he'd read what I'd written -- with a killing sideswipe.

He described me as "poor Chris Matyszczyk," as well as mistaken.

He then added: "You all know the truth. The momentum here is crazy. Unlike anything I've seen in 25 years of software development. Here's to 2012, and here's to Google+. Rock on."

But social networking isn't about software development. It's about people.

Google+ neither rocked nor rocked on. Gundotra is no longer at Google.

These days, Google+ is just there. You don't know why and you don't much care.

Facebook is no benign carer-sharer.

Its tentacles are muscular and multiplying. Without competition, it's increasingly revealing a ruthlessness as it drives toward becoming a worldwide utility, without government supervision.

Google, on the other hand, remains an advertising company.

Its founders are now more interested in self-driving cars, flying cars and all sorts of other flights of fancy that don't immediately seem to benefit people.

Perhaps if Google had competed with Facebook much earlier -- and understood people's true simple needs and enthusiasms -- it might have had a chance.

The story of Google+, though, shows just how much the world would love an inspiring alternative to Facebook.

Just not one concocted by Google.