Google has, over the years, worked very hard to get their online social networking platform up and running. After repeated misadventures with Orkut, Wave, Friend Connect and Buzz, they thought they had covered all their bases when they launched Google+ in the summer of 2011, but even though the user base grew at a rapid pace in the beginning, the level of involvement and interaction from its users has not been at the same level as sites like Facebook and Twitter. People are using Google+ alright, but apparently only to access other Google services that they actually use, like Gmail, Drive, etc.
It was in this backdrop, that Google announced a change of strategy with their online social network a few weeks ago. While rumors about the impending shakeup had been doing the rounds for some time, Google just made it official last month. Google+ will now be divided into two separate entities – Photos and Streams. A lot of people have interpreted this as throwing in the towel and admitting defeat, including some former employees. According to one of them, the failure of Google+ can be attributed to the fact that it tried too hard to be the next Facebook. Another former employee thinks that Google just didn’t market the product well enough or early enough, and nor did it catch on to the silent revolution that was going on with the explosion of the smartphone phenomenon. While Facebook missed a trick early on as well, misreading the sheer volume of business that would eventually come from the mobile space, they have since then, not only rectified that situation, but gone into overdrive, buying some of the biggest mobile apps like WhatsApp and Instagram. Today, more than half of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile.
There has also been talk about how there was a ‘fear factor’ with Google+ developers not being allowed to interact with others on campus, probably to prevent leakage, but that didn’t go down well with most employees either. And when the person in charge of Google+, Vic Gundotra, left the company without a succession plan in place, it shook things up more than the senior management had bargained for.
Although Google+ admittedly hasn’t taken off, it’s probably still a little early to write its obituary. Millions of people are still using it for one reason or another and it still is a useful way to easily log into all of Google’s online services and organize photos online. Only time will tell whether Google+ will survive in one form or another, or if this is indeed the beginning of the end for Google’s latest social networking endeavor.