Google’s Senior Vice President, Vic Gundotra, recently announced he would be leaving the company. Google+ was one of Gundotra’s major projects throughout his time at Google, and it was essentially Gundotra’s baby as he led the project from its inception. In fact, Google co-founder, Larry Page, said Gundotra “built Google+ from nothing” in a recent Google+ post. Today, Google+ has hundreds of millions of active monthly users in a large part due to Gundotra’s efforts.
Following Gundotra’s departure, though, the future of Google+ will be uncertain at best. Many believe the social network will be scaled back or will cease to exist altogether. Seeing as Google+ has never really taken off as expected, this may not come as surprise. When the beta version of the site was released, many speculated it would replace Facebook, though several years later that hasn’t come close to happening.
Although Google officially said it will still support Google+, many in the tech sector doubt the social network will be much of a priority. Here are a few reasons why the disbandment of Google+ could be a real possibility.
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An End to Forced Google+ Integration
According to a report from TechCrunch, Google will no longer force customers to user Google+ in conjunction with other applications. If you’re a regular Google user, you know that for the past few years the company has aggressively tried to integrate Google+ with its other services. For example, if you wanted to set up a Google+ page for your drum handling business (which Google recommends for all businesses), you would be unable to do so without being a Gmail user. This made registering for Google+ pretty inconvenient for many people, especially business who had their entire company using a different email platform. But that wasn't the only inconvenience of Google+.
For a while, anyone on Google+ could email Gmail users without even knowing their address. With YouTube, Google took things a step further and required everyone to have a Google+ account before commenting on videos. The company said this was a form of visitor management, and hoped forcing users to log in with a real name would keep crude comments to a minimum.
If you own an Android device, the Google+ integration is even more aggressive. You’re asked to register almost every time you use your device if you don’t already have a Google+ account. This is because many of Android’s applications, like photo effects and chat, are powered through Google+. Understandably, many were not happy with Google’s belligerent expansion efforts, and must be happy to hear that those efforts are coming to an end.
Under Gundotra, Google had approximately 1,000 to 1,200 employees working exclusively on Google+. Following his departure, many of them will likely be moved to other areas. Some speculate Google will shift its creative focus from Google+ to the Android platform. The Hangout staff, for example, will move to Android. It is likely that the staff responsible for other popular applications, like photos, will soon follow. With more talent in the mobile department, Android could better compete with Apple's smartphones and tablets.
From Social Network to Widget Space
As mentioned above, Google+ hasn't been able to compete with social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Despite forced integration and the merger with YouTube, Google+ just hasn't caught on in the way the company had hoped. Some speculate Facebook's recent merger with WhatsApp was something of a nail in Google+'s coffin. Either knowingly or unknowingly, Google missed the opportunity to acquire one of the hottest social technologies. This could signify a failure to influence — or at least further invest in — social media. However, it may have done more harm than good if Google took over WhatsApp and forced users to log in with Google+.
In light of Google+'s shortcomings in the social media game, some speculate Google+ will be more a series of widgets than a social network in the future. Many really like Google+'s Hangouts and photo features. Wouldn't it make sense to create more features like these for Android, rather than push a social network that just doesn't seem to be catching on?
Whether or not you use Google+, what do you think about some of the rumored changes? Would you be sad to see the network go?