Why it’s hard to use Google Plus in Africa

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

I don’t use Google+ much. Techzim does have a page on which we share story updates, but personal posts are few and far between. And it’s not that Google plus is a ghost town. No. There’s a flurry of activity from the people I follow – Zimbabweans, Kenyans, Googlers in Africa, and Robert Scoble. The decision for me boils down to one practical thing; page load speed.

See, like millions of other internet users on this continent, I don’t have a mega fast internet connection. Forget speed, connectivity is an up and down experience no matter which provider I try (save for the fibre I can’t afford of course). And I’ve been through a number of them.

Now, despite Google’s work in Africa, the company somehow still doesn’t seem to get that we have internet speed and stability issues on the continent. The Google+ default page loads so slowly most times one has to leave the tab to do other things (like post and share stuff on Facebook) while it loads. Sometimes it fails to load all features on the page and you find the +1 buttons don’t respond to clicks. And sometimes, like this morning, it’s even worse; the page just fails to load.

Facebook.com on the other almost always loads very fast and works smoothly regardless of the quality of connection. In fact, Facebook works so well, if it fails to load a page that’s usually a sign the internet connection is totally out.

What I don’t get about all this is, how does Google manage to make Google Search load so fast, and then fail to at least just make Google+ as fast as Facebook?

If Google is looking to improve the Google+ experience for users on the continent, they should look first to tuning up that speed. Maybe providing a ‘Google+ Lite’? I’m a fan already. I’m sold on the need for a +1 button to improve search. I’m not even mad at them anymore for not acting in our best interest with that infamous Search plus your World. Google, just fix the speed, please.



  1. kthaker

    well…in google’s defence… they did approach people to setup a google caching server in zim.. but had been turned away. 🙁

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      And so Facebook has a caching server in Zim?

      1. kthaker

        lol.. thats true i suppose. but i think it may have something to do with facebook not forcing https connections by default everytime you browse their site….google plus does use https everytime. if im not mistaken, https cant be cached in a shared cache (which ISP’s in zim do use)…because of the encryption used for each connection. or something like that? 🙂

        1. Lee Colleton ★

          Try using the mobile interface: https://m.google.com/app/plus/x/

          It uses a tiny fraction of the full Google+ desktop site’s bandwidth requirement.

        2. Prosper Chikomo

          You are right. Although as for me I always log in to any site via https.

    2. J

      That’s only one way they could fix speed. They could also just have a lighter page. Google, I think, has an aggressive policy of targetting newer browsers only. (caused massive problems for my girlfriend stuck in upgrade hell on a old Mac on the UK.) I wish developers would start realising ppl in real world don’t have the shiny computers they have and develop accordingly.

      1. Dean

        J, if developers and engineers don’t target the best hardware and network speeds, technology advancements would come through veeery slow. And if the rest of the world has to wait for Africa to catch up every time they come up with something new it would be 10 years behind right now.

        The alternative is to come up with a Google lite but the problem is developers cost money, and developers are not cheap so most companies(including Google) would rather focus on the main product rather than a small percent of the worlds population(The bigger population of mobile users is in Asia, and phones are way cheaper there than here in Africa).

        1. leo

          or maybe if the “”first world”” stop destroying the rest of the world it could catch up new stuff faster.

        2. brian gondo

          That would be true but judging from the comments even the rest of the world is having trouble accessing and using Google+

    3. Matt Stevens

      A caching server would just alleviate it a little, not fix it. I’m the the UK on a 10MB connection with very low latency (pings to google take 6ms). Yet, Google+ still takes 8 seconds until the dom load event is triggered… and 209 files make up the page. Nice.

      1. kthaker

        yeah thats true as well.. you can only cache so much… before the site itself needs to be optimised…

  2. abc

    Quite simple. Akamai.

  3. Dean

    It works properly in SA 😉 Maybe they need a representative in Zim to test it out

  4. concern

    i have since deleted my profile….not bse of speed but privacy issues. I googled my namethe other day and was shocked by the info exposed by G+….and obviously the site is difficult to like esp with an FB background, or is it bias…

    1. brian gondo

      Just curious, did you do a similar search for FB and compare what’s disclosed?

  5. sinclair

    actually my experience is the opposite – FB loads like a snail and I have to try several times ever so often. Whereas G+ normally works “fast” if one can use that word on my home connection

  6. Michael Ero

    I live in Nigeria West Africa… G+ loads here pretty well. Of course there r always issues with internet connection and other time out hitches. I think d solution is a “g+ lite” I also think we need to increase our broadband connection and speed drastically to make any headway. Broadband connection here in Nigeria is @ 12%… That’s very poor. 2 submarine cables just landed a few yrs ago, but how many people can afford 1.4Mbps for 1.7million naira (approx 10k USD)??? We need foreign partners who can start wireless community networks and increase broadband penetration. there’s just so much money to b made.

    1. brian gondo

      Is that price for end users@!#$???

  7. pridemw

    Robert Scoble!..surely you can’t be on a social network without the axe wildin Scobleizer.

  8. Henry James Ball

    I’m from the UK and i did a speed test last night and clocked 1.3Mbps … it’s not just Africa with slow internet connections. And that speed is a typical speed i get.

    1. ganaraj p r

      You are kidding right? I am sure the connection speeds in africa are in the range of 256 – 512 kbps i.e around 1/5th your speed. 1.3Mbps is fast… well much faster than what the speed is in most of the developing countries..

      1. Henry James Ball

        I didn’t mean it to sound like i was comparing UK speeds to African speeds. obviously UK speeds are much faster. but Africa has bigger fish to fry than its internet speeds since half the population can’t afford food.

        It’s all relative! I mean that in the best possible way.

        1. pat555

          Yes, who needs internet when your problem is food? Communication, education, news, banking — none of these can possibly help people in need!

        2. brian gondo

          Is that starving half of the population the same that’s buying mobile phones like crazy?

        3. tinm@n

          I suggest you really understand what you are talking about.

          Do you have any idea how much ignorance you have displayed in saying “but Africa has bigger fish to fry than its internet speeds since half the population can’t afford food.”?

  9. Foomandoonian

    I’m in Wales and G+ sometimes won’t load. If find it unresponsive and very buggy.

  10. Nitesh Ahir

    i don’t think so its just africa problem i have seen in my browser many times.. & it’s happens…
    even if when are going to open a site google will not open but when you search something on where we place url, it works.. you can see the results as well…

  11. Michael Burke

    Google plus often has more detailed (higher file size) photographs and that’s why they load slower. The experience is much better than “facebook” if you have the internet Bandwidth speed it makes “facebook” and the like seem quite antiquated. On a desktop you can actually have a format of 3 large quality pictures wide across the page making for a far superior surfing view.