The world’s first hit social network was Myspace, reigning over all other platforms similar to it from 2005 to 2008. The company surpassed Google in 2006 as the most visited website in the U.S., and even pulled in $800 million in revenue for 2008. Facebook then overtook Myspace in 2009 as the most visited social networking site by number of U.S. users. What most people missed during the Myspace and Facebook turf war was a networking site from Google, called Orkut, which was trying to build up steam as well. Two years later in 2011, Vic Gundotra would launch Google’s next attempt at a social networking site, called Google Plus (Google+). Now, in 2014, Gundotra left his position as Senior Vice President (SVP) of Social at Google, and the social platform could face any range of new dynamics.
As was previously mentioned, despite Orkut being launched around the same time as Facebook, the social networking site failed to make an impression with enough of its users that would carry it to the big leagues. The reason for this lack of momentum could have been the site’s interface, the name, the experience, or any other number of variables. In 2008, four years after launch, the site seemed to have broken enjoyable ground in the hearts and minds of Brazilians, and Google announced that the company headquarters would be transitioned to Google Brazil. As of 2013, nearly half of Orkut’s user base was Brazilian.
With Orkut being unable to pick up and maintain steam, Google did not want to throw in the towel just yet. Vic Gundotra worked for 15 years at Microsoft, between 1991 and 2006. In 2007, he then joined Google as SVP of Social, and in 2011, launched Google Plus. With Gundotra resigning from his position at Google just last week, the relatively open door of possibilities for Google Plus may reveal different dynamics with David Besbris, VP of engineering at Google, facing the new responsibilities of the social platform.
Google Plus, which probably consumed most of Gundotra’s efforts to establish from the time he started at Google, was hailed as quite the accomplishment at the start. Even as Gundotra made his announcement of exit last week, co-founder of Google Larry Page made a statement on Google Plus expressing that Gundotra’s drive, skills and courage to undertake the development of the network was admirable.
The site still stands as the world’s second largest and most active social networking site, boasting its own reach of about 540 million users, close to half of Facebook’s 1.28 billion. For a site that has essentially inched its way up the totem pole of social technology, there seems to be a lot of untapped potential that a new head of the department could tweak for the better.
David Besbris, who has only been at Google a year less than Gundotra was, may have the internal perspectives of the feedback and machinations within Google that could turn the social platform around. It is likely a wise move from the chief staff of Google to allow a pre-existing employee to take over the duties of Gundotra’s vacancy. Even though Google Plus seems to have a bit of an uphill battle facing it, as it cuts out a unique edge in the social networking realm, the site does not necessarily face imminent death, as long as its directors can fashion a new and fresh dynamic for its users.
Opinion By Brad Johnson