Google is a huge company, with tons of money, and an expert team that continues to improve the search experience, and dominate the internet. But, it’s no secret that they’ve had their share of failures. With cash to burn, and a team willing to build the “next big idea,” Google has the ability to take risks. Therefore, they’ve met their share of failures. Attempts like: Reader, the RSS feed which was shut down in 2013, Buzz, the Gmail/social sidekick which was finished in 2010, iGoogle, the customizable dashboard which was killed in 2013 and now Google Plus, which appears to be heading towards death thanks to the social giant, Facebook.
Google+, G+, or Google Plus was created by Google in 2011 amidst a series of failed social media attempts including, buzz, Friend Connect, and Orkut. It started with a bang as users in the first year spiked and had reached 50 million by the first three months. With a mission statement to “fix” online sharing, the platform was built with the purpose of sharing photos, interests, connections, and friends. However, the platform has undergone multiple changes, and continues to meet low engagement.
When Google created the social network, it was supposed to be the next big thing. There was a secret code name for the project, a secret building, and the idea that Google would be completely changed into one large social destination. The product, despite its clean interface and capable features, i.e. sharing groups (circles), video chats (hangouts), photo sharing and editing, etc, was so similar to Facebook that it failed to impress.
A Recent Change in Tactics
Meanwhile, a consistent complaint from users was that signup was mandatory for Google+ in order to use other Google owned sites, like YouTube. In a sense, the very idea of a streamlined social destination was what didn’t work. Users felt like they were being forced to sign up for a social media. One might assume that the lack of freedom to opt-out discouraged users from enjoying the experience, while others suggest that its similarity to Facebook made it relatively useless. The fact is, that Google+ has always been a social media without a clear user objective. In truth, the only clear objective for it, was to de-throne Facebook.
Four Years later, present day Google has announced that they will no longer make Google+ signups mandatory for use of other Google websites. Amongst other recent signals, it looks like Google is changing tactics for the social network to aim for a Pinterest type product that has been referred to as “streams, Photos, and Sharing,” in a blog post by Bradley Horowitz, a leader in the Google social efforts.
Bradley Harowits replaced the original founder of Google+, Vic Gundotra, who left in 2014. With a huge change in leadership, and the clear changes in vision recently, it’s obvious that Google+ is going through some serious rebranding.
Will it Disappear?
Anything that I say here is speculation, and no one can get inside the heads at Google. However, it is obvious that the original idea behind Google Plus is not working, and not staying.
Still, Google has managed to create a giant social structure inside their platform. I doubt that this feature will go away. Google knows who you are, what your interests are, and who’s in your circle of friends. For the Search engine and ad platform, this type of user data insight can only improve their performance.
Perhaps their social media did not receive the engagement that they hoped for, however, their understanding of the user only increased.
Perhaps users hated the experience of feeling forced to sign-up for it, but Google+ did unify the Google experience. With one private sign in, users have access to all of the Google tools. Even if the social media is not mandatory, I’m sure that we will continue to see a unified platform that they have created.
Since it’s declaration of having a standalone Photo’s app, a Standalone sharing app, and even the integration of Chrome into a unified web/laptop experience (chrome books) I think that it’s possible for Google to separate Google+ into multiple social apps that all run on the original network they have created, and all the while celebrating a more unified Google experience.
The Plus side of Google
Many people hate on Google as a monopoly, and a corporation that has too much information, and too little privacy policies. Still, as a web marketer, it is no secret that Google is who websites aim to please. They are not going away, and they are not the devil.
While they have had many failures, including the recent Google glass, they have also continued to find success in other areas. To have the money and resources to try, fail, and try again, is not a bad position to be in. Thanks to their strength, they have the ability to expand and create. Dreams become a reality. A self-driving car is underway. So as Google+ endures some heavy changes, I don’t see a fall or failure, but another attempt at success.