"Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day." This was the tagline that Google posted on their blog five years ago to tell the world that they were casting their lot into the social networking scene. Google fans didn't need to be told twice where to sign up, but a great many people didn't want yet another social media service clogging up their notifications. Most readers will probably remember the huge backlash when Google+ began to find its way into other services, eventually becoming a default part of the Google experience. Nowadays, despite some critics, people have largely accepted Google+ and even embraced it, leading to its 300 million or so active users.
Google+ arguably owes its survival to those very tactics, but a number of innovative features have sweetened the deal over the years, with some still not being found on most competing social networks. The heavy Google service integration, for example, allows you to instantly share what you love on YouTube just by giving it a thumbs-up. Likewise, Google+ integration allows people to quickly and easily connect with others on Gmail, YouTube and the like. A somewhat different news feed format from other services also helped to set Google+ apart. While it ultimately is just another social network, the fact is that it has stood the test of time for half a decade while other Google services and other social networks have risen and fallen.
While everybody is bound to have a different opinion of Google+, it's unquestionable that the service has produced some truly unique moments and experiences. Some people have met some of their best online friends through Google+ communities, and others have connected with YouTube artists and musicians through Google+ to gain support for their own creative pursuits. Still others may have checked out their fair share of Collections or even founded a group around their favorite topic and watched it flourish in a way that a Facebook group never could thanks to enhanced search functions getting them more exposure. The service's user count is still nowhere near the juggernauts and likely never will be unless major changes are made, but all the same, five years in such a competitive space has to be worth something. So, Happy Birthday, Google+.