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Google Docs Turns 2, Struggles to Get into the Mainstream

A couple of days ago, Google’s online productivity suite Google Docs and Spreadsheets just turned two years old. And through those two years, we have witness how Google tried their best to improve its features to gain a significant stronghold in the market for online productivity. For a while I thought Google Docs was doing pretty well as I’ve known several people using the online application for collaboration and work-sharing. But I may be wrong as two recent studies, one published by Compete and the other by Clickstream technologies found surprising data and results.

According to the Compete study, although Google Docs & Spreadsheets continue to attract significant number of casual users, these users however don’t stay that long on Google Docs & Spreadsheets service. Of the number of unique visitors of Google Docs and Spreadsheets, only 58% of them actually use one or two of the services available on the site.

The Compete study also found significant increase in overall traffic of the Google Docs and Spreadsheets for the past 12 months. Overall traffic in September 2008 alone was at 4.4 million users representing 2.4 of adult online users in the U.S.

Engagement wise, casual users are found to have use Google Docs and Spreadsheets only 3 times a month and those casual users stay on the site not more than 5 minutes per month. These clearly indicate that usage-wise, Google Docs and Spreadsheets don’t seem to be gaining that much through the years.

Similarly, Clickstream Technologies, a technology usage metrics company also conducted as study but this time including other free online productivity applications including Google Docs and OpenOffice comparing them with Microsoft Word, Notepad and Excel. And surprisingly, the study revealed usage of both OpenOffice and Google Docs remained low compared to Microsoft which didn’t show any sign of decline in usage. The study revealed that 50% of adult online users in US continue to use Microsoft Office.

In addition, the Clickstream study showed that Google Docs is next only to OpenOffice in terms of usage popularity. Only 1% of users used Google Docs. Aside from this it was also found out that Google Docs averaged only 40 actions performed by users as compared to 548 actions for OpenOffice and 1,797 in Microsoft Word. Google Docs got the fewest average days used.

These are just some of the most interesting finding by both Clickstream and Compete. And it only shows that Google Docs and Spreadsheets are not ready to go mainstream. The applications offered by Google Docs and Spreadsheets are no doubt useful. However, what these studies only show is the fact that users stick with MS Office applications for their productivity program since it has always been the applications that they’ve used. Users seem to not mind the fact that Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a great real-time collaboration application since it is online and so sharing it with other people is easy and quick.

I will have to admit that I am a heavy Google Docs and Spreadsheets users. I find it useful when writing my articles in draft and saving it for later use anywhere that I have access to the Internet. That’s why it surprised to find these reports and learned how “unpopular” the application is to users.

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Google Docs Turns 2, Struggles to Get into the Mainstream

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