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May 19, 2016 — TrackFive

A Social Plague: Will Google Ever Master Social?

Google’s announcement of yet another social media tool called, Spaces, has left me (and probably many other Google fans) a little skeptical. With a company as large and successful as Google, it is hard to find fault with anything they do. However, dating back to 2004, we counted 10 Google social platforms fails including Dodgeball, Google Lively, and of course, Google Plus. If history is any indicator of Google’s chance for success in social, it could be said that Google may have 99 problems, and social is definitely one.

(In a hurry? Then check out our Google’s Social Fails infographic!)


Named after its creator, former Google product manager OrkutBüyükkökten, Orkut was launched just 11 days before Facebook in January 2004. Even though at a point in time, it was one of the most visited sites in the countries of Brazil and India, Orkut just could not compete with Facebook’s massive user acquisition. The Orkut site loaded slower and was not user-friendly. Redesigns and updates of the site made the user experience more complicated and eventually led to the loss of their user base. After a ten-year run, Orkut was officially shut down on September 30, 2014. was co-founded in 2003 by Dennis Crowley, who would eventually go on to build Foursquare. Dodgeball was a location-based social network that allowed users to share their location with their friends via text messaging. Google bought it in May 2005, but by 2007, Crowley left saying, “the whole experience was incredibly frustrating.” In February of 2009, Dodgeball was shut down for its successor, Google Latitude.


Jaiku was a microblogging platform that could have been Google’s Twitter. In fact, it was actually launched shortly before Twitter in 2006 and Google purchased the company in October 2007. Unfortunately, Google neglected Jaiku, failing to provide updates and support. Because of this, users mass-migrated over to Twitter and Jaiku eventually became stagnant. Google stop providing support for Jaiku in 2009 and made the software open source, but it did not help and Jaiku was officially shut down in January of 2012.

Google Friend Connect

Launched in May 2008, Google Friend Connect was a web widget that would add a “dash of social” to your website. It would use third-party sites to allow users to share information through messaging, photos, and videos. You could use existing accounts from Google, Yahoo, AOL or OpenID to sign in which made it easy for nearly anyone to use. With the arrival of Google Plus, Friend Connect was shut down for all non-Blogger sites on March 1, 2012, and for Blogger sites on January 11, 2016.

Google Lively

Google wanted a web-based application that could compete with SecondLife so they introduced Google Lively. It was a 3D virtual world where users could customize avatars and “decorate” a room with photos from Picasa, a Google photo service, or videos from YouTube.

It was not really a SecondLife competitor as there was not one single world where users could interact, but users could chat with other avatars and interact with objects. All the items in Lively were free, giving users no sense of value, whereas, on SecondLife, items could be bought and sold, creating a reason for users to continue using the site. Google Lively lasted just 6 months before Google discontinued the service by the end of December 2008.

Google Latitude

After shutting down Dodgeball, Google introduced Google Latitude in February 2008. This was another attempt at a location-based social application where users could view others or share their location with their friends. It was available for iOS, Blackberry OS, Android, and more. The service was eventually discontinued in August 2013 because of the Google Plus Location Sharing feature.

Google Wave

Google Wave was released to the general public in May 2009 and was meant to be the ultimate collaboration tool. It was a communication tool that combined the use of email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking. Software extensions expanded the range of features that could be performed including spell checking or translation services. The service would be stop being developed in 2010 for Vic Gundotra and the team to prepare for Google Plus. Google Wave was deleted in April 2012.


Created in early 2008, Google bought Aardvark in February 2010 with the intention to create a social search engine. Aardvark connected users with friends and friends-of-friends to answer questions. Essentially, it was a knowledge market. When a question was asked, Aardvark would search user profiles, looking for information relevant to the question being asked, to find a user that might be able to answer. In September 2011, Google killed many of its apps and Aardvark was one of them.

Google Buzz

Designed to compete with Facebook and Twitter, Google Buzz was a social network that integrated with many other apps and networks to allow users to share links, photos, videos, status updates, messages, and comments. It launched in February 2010 and Google executives said it was meant to bridge the gap between work and play. But Google’s lack of concern for user privacy led to lawsuits in 2010.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, “these problems arose because Google attempted to overcome its market disadvantage in competing with Twitter and Facebook by making secondary use of your information.” A settlement was eventually reached and Google paid $8.5 million to fund groups that promote privacy education on the web. In October 2011, Google announced they would discontinue the service, and it was stopped in December 2011 for Google Plus.


Amidst a lot of hype and fanfare, Google released Google Plus saying that current online social tools were too rigid and described the social networking scene as “awkward” and “broken.” Google Plus was supposed to “fix” everything and by the time it launched in December 2011, was positioned to be the “Facebook killer.” However, Google Plus did anything but kill Facebook.

By 2012, Google+ was a ghost town with inactivity. Larry Page, co-creator of the network, kept saying the site had 90 million users, but that only technically true. All new users of Google’s services were created a Google+ profile when they signed up. At a point in time, to be able to use YouTube’s services like uploading a video, creating a channel, or even commenting on another video, a user had to have a Google Plus profile.

In 2014, Vic Gundotra, the other Google Plus co-creator who was previously part of the Google Wave team, left the company immediately. With that, many companies and people knew that Google Plus was failing in its original goal. Though there has not been an official statement from Google discontinuing the Google Plus Service, it is only a matter of time. By March 2015, the company already moved away from the Google Plus branding, splitting it into two separate stand-alone apps: Photos and Streams. By July 2015, the break-up officially began as Google Plus was split from YouTube.

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