I'm getting rather bored of how, following some relatively short space of time after launch, some people rush to declare the early demise of a particular service or startup usually based on little more than than an apparent dip in traffic or (worse) the author's isolated experience. It's happening right now with Google Plus, which I think is rather short-sighted and misses the point of it by a country mile.
Paul Graham of Y-Combinator originated the startup curve (above), drawn on a white board at a dinner with some of the entrepreneurs they work with. It's not unlike the Gartner Hype Cycle in shape of-course, but it's a more compelling visualisation of what it's like to launch something new for the people who are actually doing it. And he should know. Since Y-Combinator began in 2005, they've funded and worked with over 300 startups that have a combined valuation of $4.7 Billion, including the likes of Reddit, AirBnB, Dropbox and Posterous (for some quite amazing stats around Y-Combinator's success, take a look at the short film below).
So whilst the 'Trough of Disillusionment' or in this case the 'Wearing Off Of Novelty' is perhaps inevitable, in Google Plus's case it is misplaced and focuses thinking in the wrong place. Google Plus is not a Facebook killer. It is, in the words of Bradley Horowitz "a foundational element for identity, relationship, interest across all we're doing at Google...Everything we do is going to be informed by this sense of person and interest and relationship, so that all users' data can be used in their interest at their discretion". So rather than being a destination social network in the way that many people seem to think it is, it's a social layer across all of it's products (and indeed much of the web). A simple example of this is the convergence of social and search with the integration of Google Plus and the +1 button into Social Search.
There's been a flurry of posts in the past week or so about the downside of Facebook's so-called 'frictionless sharing', making similar points to those I made in my last New Media Age column. The thrust of what I was saying in that piece was that frictionless sharing changes a pretty big default, turning sharing from an active process into a passive one, when arguably the filters we have access to (though rapidly improving) are not yet sophisticated enough to stop this from just becoming spam. But I think Albert Wenger is right, it's wrong to assume that "sharing with Facebook as a single network, the one network to rule them all" is inevitable, and it is far more likely that we will end up using a range of sharing services, each with their own nuance, in a kind of 'network of networks'.
What the doomsayers miss is that this is about building a play at the context level of the vertical stack. The 'promised land' on this particular curve is about integrating that context (through data) with other layers of the stack including hardware, operating systems, content, access and commerce. And it's too big a win not to succeed.