Ever since Google introduced its social network, Google+, back in 2011, the search engine giant has struggled to get it the grounding and active interest of its key competitor, Facebook.
Now a mere four years on, there are signs that suggest Google+ could be in the process of dismantling. While no official word has been provided by Google, its recent decision to break its social network into two separate key products - Streams and Photos - could be a sign that Google+ is on its way out.
A good social network launched at the wrong time
While Google's choice to split Streams and Photos (two key features of the social network) into separate apps/services doesn't necessarily spell the end for Google+, it does indicate that Google+ as we know it could be in for a much larger overhaul, repurposing, or removal.
But the question that remains is why exactly Google+ has struggled so much over the years since its introduction. The simplest explanation is that it was simply launched at the wrong time. Keep in mind that Google+ was launched in 2011. Facebook already had 500 million+ users back in 2010. This was such a well-known fact that the film The Social Network, released in 2010, used "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies" as its tagline. And, in its own way, that film brought Facebook so much free publicity - even if it did paint Mark Zuckerberg in a relatively negative light - that it would have helped boost the social network's user numbers.
Even without the film, however, Facebook was already such a massive social network when Google+ launched. And even though Google+ did offer some unique differences to Facebook, it was still somewhat fundamentally the same thing, whereas Twitter and LinkedIn were and continue to be very different from Facebook. More importantly, Facebook had become integral to more than 500 million users. For an audience of that size to make the jump to Google+ would take a miracle.
It was a catch-22 situation. The only way Google+ could succeed was to get people from Facebook to make the jump; but people on Facebook would only make the jump if their friends did. In the end, however, almost no one was willing to make that jump for a social network that, in spite of being good, just wasn't different enough to justify a change.
The separation of Streams and Photos
It was announced recently that Google would be separating the social network's highly regarded photo app into its own standalone product. Effectively removing this means that Google+'s Streams - which accounts for all other aspects of the service - will also become its own standalone product. This announcement was made by Google's VP of Product Bradley Horowitz, who stated he will oversee the development and ongoing support of both Streams and Photos.
By titling them Streams and Photos, Horowitz didn't outright state that the Google+ name is being dropped, but he also made no mention of its existence going forwards. If the remainder of Google+ is now to be called Streams as Horowitz somewhat implied, then that means Google's social networking endeavours could be in for a change.
If the company does decide to discontinue Google+, it wouldn't be something you could blame them for doing. After all, Streams will continue in some capacity, and the network's much-touted photo app will still be available for use. But considering the amount of effort Google did put in to trying to give the social network a good footing - and even angering many Google users in the process with forced Google+ integration at one time - they may have finally realised it's simply not gaining the traction they originally envisioned.
Of course, this is merely the speculation of news outlets, and perhaps Google could have some trick up its sleeve. Although, history shows us that once a product has outstayed its welcome, Google tends to cull instead of reinvent.
Do you think Google will ultimately drop Google+ from its suite of products/services? Let me know in the comments below.
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