Google+ has now passed the 40 million users, as announced by the company in its latest quarterly earning release, but not everyone, even within Google, is convinced of its success. Indeed, in an email that should have remained within the company and instead was (accidentally?) published, a software engineer, Steve Yegge, argues that Google+ is “is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone”.
While the error made by the google team would consist, for Yegge, of thinking in this way: “Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us”. “Do you begin to see – concludes Yegge nella mail ai colleghi – how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them”, instead of leaving to the users themselves and third parties to do the development work. But hey, we of Mondivirtuali wanna add: this was not exactly what Linden Lab tried to do when it has developed its 3D immersive online platform known as Second Life? Beyond the errors of management and marketing and despite an economic crisis that has taken many the desire and the ability to think of something different from the first life, Second Life remains by far the most successful virtual world between those launched so far and there is a reason.
If you compare Second Life, as has sometimes been done by the same Linden Lab, to videogames (maybe a MMORPG), the difference leaps to the eye as more active users in Second Life resist a few years on average while in MMORPGs to achieve higher levels removes any motivation for more active players over 6-18 months at most. The secret is probably right in that happy intuition of Philip Rosedale, to create an environment that may be the world that the imagination of its users (“residents” to use a term fell into disuse) is able to create. Too bad that Facebook guys and even Google engineers understood this much better than Linden Lab, although any comparison between these two social platforms and SL is misleadingin technical terms, given the greater complexity and richness compared tothe usability of the latest but also “flatness” of the first.
But the hundreds of millions of users of social networks, of course, this demand: a lightweight platform, easily accessible, suitable to be used for different purposes and with tens of hundreds of entertainment. Facebook understood it, Google is trying, now is up to Linden Lab demonstrate the ability to understand its current and potential users, which obviously will never be the same of these social networks. Not necessarily a bad thing, if Second Life will remain a niche product aimed at a “high end” and “rich” market, adopting more the model of Apple than of Microsoft as we have already explained before.