Google+ is dying, or at least that’s what many reports are suggesting today. The jump off point for this is that long-time Googler and the man credited with making the social network, Vivek ‘Vic’ Gundotra has decided to part ways with the company.
Gundotra wrote a post on Google+ to announce his decision to quit and many have now questioned whether Google’s social network will ever be the same with him leading the way. Anyone who has followed Google+ closely over the past three years would know how passionate and excited Gundotra has been when introducing new features. At last year’s Google I/O, the man practically took us through his vacation pictures to show off Google+ Photos Auto-Awesome and was also the one to announce Hangouts, which has become the lynchpin in all of Google’s platforms. So it’s safe to say that Gundotra’s departure is a big loss for the company.
But does that mean Google+ is dead? TechCrunch says it’s “walking dead”, adding that teams working on different of the network have been reassigned to Android development. The alleged reorganisation will involve over 1,000 Google+ employees. It also says that Google will be moving towards using Google+ as a platform rather than a separate product and adds that Google+ integration into products like YouTube, Play Store and Gmail are likely to be rolled back. All of this is based on information supposedly received from anonymous sources, though the report is vague on what makes their statements worthy enough for us to take note.
Despite over 540 million active users (as of October 2013), there’s a feeling that it’s too much of a challenge for G+ to take on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, that’s a substantial user base but it doesn’t show how many of these users are actually using the Website. They may be G+ users just signed in to YouTube.
The report says Google will keep some aspects of the network, while removing parts it deems unnecessary. One theory is that Google will strip down Google+ to make it just an identity platform to tie-in all your data in one place. The Google ID already does this though, so doing the same with Google+ is superfluous. As for removing G+ integration from YouTube and other services, not many users will have a problem with that. Google faced severe criticism for this and comment threads have burst out in protest over the move which required a Google+ ID for users to leave a comment. That was mainly seen as a way for Google to increase the G+ user base.
But it’s not just YouTube, Google+ ID is tied to the Play Store, Gmail and Hangouts too. However, the TechCrunch report is mum on what happens to those tie-ins. It speculates that the Google+ Photos team could be moved to the Android team to improve the camera experience. Moreover, your Google+ +1s can also be used by Google and marketers to recommend products, content or other pages to your Circles, so there’s a monetary aspect as well.
Google’s official response to TechCrunch and at least one other publication is that these reports are totally untrue. “Today’s announcement has no impact on our Google Plus strategy—we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts and Photos,” it said in a statement to Slate as well, quoted in an article titled almost like a wish: ‘Is Google Plus finally dying?’
One thing is for sure though, with Gundotra gone, Google+ has lost a face audiences would be familiar with. David Besbris will be taking over, and not Bradley Horowitz, the second in command after Gundotra, so Google is definitely ringing in big changes.
It may be a hard pill to swallow but Google has been known to pull the plug on projects when it deems them less of a priority. It happened with Reader and Google’s previous social network efforts, so we could be in for the end of Google Plus.