Google+, Jimdo, and the Future of the Open Web

by francine Hardaway on July 1, 2011

The launch of the  Google+ “field trial” has provoked a raft of blog posts. Thankfully, most of them have stuck to describing the feature set and have refrained from making judgments about the product’s future based on two days of trying it out. Andrew Hartung of Forbes, however, decided to go out on a limb and tell us that Google+ is a net negative for investors because it will never replace Facebook.

Along the way, he takes a swipe at the entire rest of the web:

Products like Facebook are emerging as platforms which can displace your need for a web site (why build a web site when all you need is on their platform?) or even email.  Their referral networks have the ability to be more powerful than a generic web search when you seek information.  And by tying you together with others like you, they can probably move you to products and buying locations you really want faster than a keyword Google-style search.  BNet.comheadlined “How Facebook Intends to Supplant Google as the Web’s #1Utility,” and it just might happen – as we see users are increasingly spending more time on Facebook than Google.

Fine, perhaps they are. But how can that be a reason a business doesn’t need a web site? I have been working with a global small business web site tool that has 4,000,000 users. Jimdo is a way for businesses, organizations, and individuals to have a web presence independent of Facebook’s whims. Many treat their Jimdo sites like brochures, or yellow page listings. Believe me, they are  more than a little afraid of Facebook as a marketing tool for their businesses. First, they don’t know how to market on Facebook, and second, they’ve gotten lousy results when they have tried.

Remember, over the last five years Facebook has changed its feature sets (fan pages, groups, brand pages), privacy rules (you can now turn off brands from your stream), and terms of service. Not to mention the issues Facebook has had with spam. And believe me, I’m as heavy a user of Facebook as the next guy; I just think it is dangerous for a small business to depend on. Unless someone in your business is going to monitor Facebook and engage in the conversation (which most small business owners don’t have time to do), you are better off having a Jimdo site as well. The small business owners (non-geeks) in our municipal training programs groan about Facebook marketing.

Even if Facebook was a good place for the average small business to be found as Andrew Hartung thinks it is, — and as someone who has coached 650 small businesses I know it is d not — putting your business life in the hands of someone else’s platform at the expense of the open web is a big mistake. That became obvious this week when MySpace was sold . Even before the sale, it had become obvious that the bands who had no other web site but their MySpace pages,had ceased to get the traffic and referrals they used to when MySpace was hot.

That will happen to Facebook as well; it’s inevitable in the evolution of the internet. As Hartung points out, we may be moving away from pure search as a way of finding things on the web, but that doesn’t mean we’re parked on Facebook. That’s why Google+ may be great for Google investors, not bad.

Google+ doesn’t have to be a Facebook killer. It can just be a nice way for Google to amass more information about its users,  perhaps wind that into its new search efforts. People don’t have to spend as much time on Google as they do on Facebook to be satisfied. As Marc Canter said on Google+, “it’s like comparing apples to grapefruits.”

I wrote this post in a fit of passion/pique, because this is one of the few times I think I know more than someone who writes for Forbes. On small business, I feel I am on safe ground. Andrew, do you know how many small business owners still type Facebook into a Google search bar to get to their log-ins

Who cares if Google+ will or won’t replace Facebook? That’s not even the right question, either for the Google investors, or for small business.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: