The Future of Google+

 In Google, Social Media

Google employed a “hell or high water” strategy when it came to developing their social network. Instead of necessarily trying to address a need or opening that Facebook and Twitter had not yet addressed, the approach of “create a social network or risk everything” more than likely suffered from a lack of real inspiration, and was serviced well by its overtly competitive aims. Remember, this was not an attempt that Google hadn’t made prior to embarking on the road to Plus.  Names like Orkut, Reader, Wave and Buzz all line the walls of Google’s dimly lit path toward social network participation; failed attempts at online peer communication that did more to wrongly embolden Google than it did to rightly assuage them from a misguided challenge. The social network’s chief architect, Vic Gundotra, had convinced the company’s CEO to pursue the new venture in 2011, after lengthy coaxing and convincing that some say led Page to believe that Facebook really was creating space between them with the advances of their platform.

Although Google has a wealth of customers that would be potential users of Google Plus, there are reports of only 1-9% of the 2.2 Billion Google users that are active on Google Plus. While that pales in comparison to competitors like Facebook or even Snapchat, the story of Google’s social possibilities have always lied in their potential. As of 2015, Google had a potential reach of nearly 40% of the US population and 100 million users in China, although it is unclear how many of those users are active. Plus also hasn’t broken out of the realm of being to o friendly of those explicitly in the “know”: The top four occupations of Google Plus users are engineer, developer, software engineer and designer.

By the end of July 2015, Google informed their users that they would be phasing out the Google Plus requirement to use their other services, all but admitting that they would be moving away from the social media realm for now. Most experts say that the deathblow of the endeavor was that Google simply did not introduce anything new to the world of online social communication. Instead of heeding the word of numerous reports that signaled that the social network was not reaching nearly as many people as expected, Google instead chose to move forward with developing features like Hangouts and Circles, all attempts to cover for the lack of innovation that the Google Plus team was met with. As opposed to Google efforts of the past, Plus started with a very large team to develop and build its infrastructure. The company hedged its bets on a large-scale social media platform, instead of what many thought they could’ve done, which is rollout a series of smaller scale social apps to service the areas that Twitter and Facebook had not yet mastered. But, mostly, what seems to have done Google in, above all else, was the lack of necessity tied to their creation. As Chris Wetherell, the founder of Google Reader, said, “It wasn’t going to be why Google existed unlike the way it was for Twitter or Facebook. It was the wrong company at the wrong time”

All indications point to Google continuing on with the Google Plus name for now, but heavily focusing on building the service as part of a suite of access, with old stalwarts like Hangouts and Photos, along with new features like Collections and Communities, the first of which lets you create content collections around topics and interests, while communities are groups created around a specific interest, organization or passion by either an individual or a business. They also haven’t given up on utilizing their race towards a sort of Google “oneness”, with new features like Spaces, which allow find and share articles, videos and images with Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome already incorporated in your messaging dashboard. Beginning last November, Google started rolling out new redesigns of Google Plus and it look like, with new project lead Danielle Buckley and smaller, more dedicated groups focused on the apps that make up the Google social media experience, Google seems much more content to take its time and develop innovation, rather than chase the pack towards a goal that’s already been had.

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