How the tech press deluded itself about Google Glass
I'm going to give you two alternative histories of the Google Glass project thus far, starting with the one you've heard—the tech press's self-deluded account—and then the actual history.
Here's how the tech press tells the story. Google's Google X labs came out with a stupid looking, privacy-invading product called Google Glass. Even though they spent a lot of money on it, the whole thing was such a dumb idea that it failed, so they killed it off.
Here are some choice example headlines: Google Glass is dead—and good riddance —The Daily Dot; The end is nigh for Google Glass—ZDNet;—and The definitive account of why Google Glass went down in flames—BGR.
Here's the real-world version:
Google aggressively developed a wearable product that was so radical they didn't really know who might use it or how. So in April, 2012, Google came out with an invitation-only Explorer Program to find out how real people would really use it.
The program was clearly advertised as temporary, experimental and exploratory—an "open beta." They ran that program for awhile, then announced very clearly that they learned what they wanted to learn from the Explorer Program and would now fast-track the project into a real product or set of products.
Consumer products are reportedly coming as well. The CEO of the Italian Eyewear Maker Luxottica said in April that his company is working on a new version of Google Glass.
Luxottica is a global eyewear company better known for its sub-brands like Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Eyemed, Glasses.com, Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. The company also makes frames branded as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney, and Tory Burch.
The tech press, however, ignored the facts and invented from whole cloth a deluded fantasy about Google Glass "dying" or being "killed off" by Google.
And I know why, too.
Why the tech press deludes itself
Researchers at the University of Southern California have uncovered an interesting paradox that exists on social media. It's called the majority illusion.
When a person sees a behavior or attribute among many of their friends, they're likely to be deluded into thinking that it can be extended to the network as a whole, even though it's actually rare.
MIT Technology Review defined the majority illusion as "the local impression that a specific attribute is common when the global truth is entirely different." Furthermore, MIT found that "the majority illusion can be used to trick the population into believing something that is not true."
The media in general, including the tech press, is obsessed with using Twitter. And that love of Twitter is often accompanied by a disdain for Google+, for whatever reason.
Most groups outside the media don't share that particular set of social media preferences. Yet the majority illusion convinces the press that "everybody uses Twitter" and that "nobody uses Google+." But what's true in the echo chamber is not true in the world.
In fact, as we learned this week in the company's earnings report, Twitter actually has a small user base and is barely growing at all.
Another study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index pointed out this week that Google+ has a user satisfaction rating that's higher than both Facebook and Twitter.
The tech press, needless to say, is massively influential on public opinions about technology and social networks. Unfortunately, they're also a tiny, narrow, insular group of people who live in a bubble which is nothing more than a majority illusion fantasy world.
And that's the one and only reason why they're telling you that Google+ is dead.
In the real world, Google+ is very much alive and kicking.