When Vic Gundotra first left Google in April 2014, the company vehemently denied any prospect that the social network Google+—Gundotra’s pet project—would take a back seat. More than a year later, it looks like that’s exactly what is happening.
“We’re going to continue focusing Google+ on helping users connect around the interests they love and retire it as the mechanism by which people share and engage within other Google products,” said Bradley Horowitz, vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, who oversaw the new Google Photos product. “Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired.”
It makes sense that Google is divesting resources from Google Plus. According to a study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting; a digital marketing agency, some 90% of people with Google Plus profiles never made a public post. Additionally, of Google’s 2.2 billion users, less than 0.5% or 111 million have active profiles. Of those 111 million, just 6.7 million have at least 50 posts, and only 3.5 million had at least 50 posts in the last 30 days of the study.
An example of Google+ elements that will be retired is the forced integration of G+ into Gmail and YouTube. Now YouTube commentators are no longer required to use Google+ before they sign on. Horowitz said himself that this led to product experiences that “users sometimes found confusing.” Google split Google+ from its Google Photos app in June. “It was important to me that when we launched Google Photos, we stressed that the product implements sharing by any means a user prefers … without compromise or agenda. This is the right thing for users and the feedback and usage has been extremely validating,” said Horowitz.
Here are some other changes to Google+ that could affect your business and customers:
- In the coming months, a Google account will be all one needs to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel, and more, all across Google. “We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google … other than using Google+ itself,” said Horowitz. YouTube will be one of the first products to make this change. But an individual’s underlying Google account won’t be searchable or follow-able, unlike public Google+ profiles.
- The company added a new feature called Google+ Collections, where you can share and enjoy posts organized by the topics you care about. Because these can be shared publicly or privately, businesses can build collections based on topics relevant to their products or services.
- Some features that aren’t essential to an interest-based social experience, like the Google Photos app for example, are being moved out of Google+. The company has also started putting location sharing into Hangouts and other apps.
- For people who have already created Google+ profiles but don’t plan to use Google+ itself, Google has better options for removing those public profiles.