Last June, Google+ arrived on the scene promising to be a less-bloated alternative to Facebook. Unfortunately, nearly nine months later, the social networking site operated by Google Inc. has become a virtual ghost town, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal.

While it may be premature to call Google+ an epic failure, I’ll go out on a limb and say just that: The site will never become popular and here is why.

It’s Facebook Lite

Google+ has a number of unique features versus those offered on Facebook. Unfortunately, these aren’t enough to convince most users to switch.

For example, the site’s “Hangouts” and video conferencing tools are impressive. Still, they aren’t enough.

“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis, an analyst at social-media advisory firm Altimeter Group. For those who already use Facebook, “Google hasn’t communicated what the value of Google+ is,” he said.

In addition, although bloated, Facebook does have 845 million monthly users. This compares to just 90 million registered Google+ customers. In other words, you are much more likely to find your friends and business acquaintances on Facebook. And unlike on Google+, those contacts are active.

From September through January, for example, Google+ users spent just three minutes per month on the site, according to a comScore.

Social Network Usage

Social Network Usage

No Guarantees Site Will Remain

When Google+ arrived last year, many of us at AppAdvice signed up for the service. In fact, for a short period of time anyway, Google+ became the place many of us frequented to discuss the iOS topics of the day. In June, I was so excited about what Google+ could represent, I wrote a piece hoping the site lots of success.

Unfortunately, it is hard to commit to a site run by a company notorious at dropping products even after a short period of time.

For example, before Google+, there was Google Buzz. Prior to that, Google Friend Connect and orkut were the company’s answer to Facebook. In each of the previous attempts, sites went dark and customers lost out. On the other hand, Facebook’s demise will almost certainly come only when the Web itself dies.

Question of Investment

Finally, who has the time? Whether for personal or professional use, social networking already takes up a lot of our online time. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Linked In, there is simply no room for a fourth site; especially one so similar to the market leader.

The same goes for would-be Google+ advertisers and partners, who have been unimpressed with the site.

Says David Cohen, an executive vice president at Universal McCann, a media buying unit of Interpublic Group of Cos. that helps big marketers spend ad dollars:

“(Google+ does) not have the same degree of vibrancy that Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest has at the moment. Without active engagement, it will not be as attractive to advertisers.”

Google+ Is Cooked

Publically, Google is behind its latest social networking initiative. In fact, Google CEO Larry Page has called the site a “robust competitor” in the social space. Still, I believe Google’s fourth attempt at social networking will ultimately be judged a failure. While millions more may be spent on Google+ before it actually dies, the end will come.

We’d like to know, do you think Google+ has a future or not?

Note: The Google+ app remains in the App Store.

(Photo: Norebbo.com)