You have to feel sorry for Google+. Originally hailed as the beloved newborn that would finally topple Facebook’s dominance, it is now the latest in a long line of Google’s social networking failures. While committed users still love the platform’s group features and clean presentation, most people use their profile solely for the purpose of signing in to other Google products. Recognizing this trend, Google has started dismembering the project it once held so dear. After recently separating the popular Photos feature from the network, it has now unhooked YouTube, too.
In a post published on Google’s Official blog, Bradley Horowitz, one of the network’s co-founders, stated that Google+ sign in will be removed from all other services in the coming months — “When we launched Google+, we set out to help people discover, share, and connect across Google like they do in real life. While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we’ve needed to rethink.” It is a strategical U-turn, and a risky one at that. Without the requirement to use the service, many reluctant users might never return.
It is a necessary gamble, however, for a network that has always struggled with user engagement. In an attempt to rekindle enthusiasm among core users, Horowitz writes that the network is going to focus on what it does best — providing a place for interest groups to interact. This includes a new Collections feature, which will allow users to group together and share posts on a particular topic. The aim is to offer a “more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+.” Effectively, it is a switch of focus from trying to emulate Facebook, to trying to emulate Reddit or Quora.
It seems quite possible that these changes will first save, and then strengthen Google+ in the long run. But it is obvious that Google has given up on Google+ as a dominant social platform. It is a sad state of affairs for a network that promised so much, but now only limps toward a seemingly inevitable fate: being buried alongside Orkut and Google Buzz.