Thursday, October 11, 2018

Google Kills Google+

It was this past Monday, October 8 2018, that Google announced it would be shutting down Google+. The service will continued to operate until August 2019 when it will close down. The reason that Google gave was a bug in one of Google+ People APIs that allowed apps access to information in users' profiles that the users had not marked as public. There was no evidence that any developers were even aware of the bug, let alone abused the API. As someone who has used Google+ from the beginning (I have been with it since the beta was only a few days old), I must say that I am sorely disappointed and I think Google is being very short-sighted.

Indeed, if Google+ has not been as successful as Google wished it had been, Google has no one to blame but themselves. The beta version of Google+ launched on June 28 2011 and proved to be very active. Indeed, to this day I have more followers on Google+ than any other social network (even Twitter). Google+ would continue to be a thriving social media platform for quite some time. Unfortunately, it seemed as if Google was intent on undermining the success of Google+.

Over time Google removed some very useful features from Google+. Ripples was a tool that allowed users to see how their posts had been reshared. It was quite useful for those concerned about the reach of their posts on Google+, and fun to play with for the rest of us. Hangouts on the Air was a live-streaming service. Unfortunately Google removed the feature from Google+ and gave it to YouTube. Even with these changes Google+ continued to be a very active and thriving social network.

Sadly, there would be changes in the management at Google+ and this would ultimately hurt G+ in the long run. Vic Gundotra, the executive who had been in charge of Google+ from its inception, left in 2014. It was on November 18 2015 that Google introduced "New Google+", which further deprived Google+ of much of its functionality. No longer did Google+ have an adequate means of curating one's own photos. I assume this was because Google wanted to force users to use Google Photos, which lacked many of the features Google+'s original photo management tools possessed. New Google+ also made it difficult to manage one's circles. For those who have never used Google+, circles are essentially lists into which users can organise people. Each circle has its own stream, making it easy to keep track of posts. Classic Google+ had a fairly efficient tool for organising circles, complete with a "drag-and-drop" interface. Sadly that sort of circle management was  missing from New Google+. Now Google+ continued to prosper as long as Classic Google+ was available. Unfortunately on January 24 2017 Google forced New Google+ on all its users, even though it was clear the majority of their users preferred Classic Google+.

I see New Google+ as the first nail in the coffin of Google+. Once New Google+ was forced upon users, many of them deserted the social network platform. Those of us who remained posted less often. Quite simply, New Google+ was so inferior to Classic Google+ that one has to wonder if Google wasn't intentionally trying to kill Google+ by that point.

While Google+ is not nearly as active as it once was, I still think Google is being short-sighted in killing it.Indeed, G+ could become much thriving and active if they simply restored much of Classic G+'s functionality. For that matter, I don't think they have thought out the impact it might have on their  other products. The only reason I ever used Google Photos was to post to Google+. Once Google+ goes dark I will no longer have any use for Google Photos. As a result, I will be uninstalling it from my phone. I have no reason to believe there aren't other users like me.

I will certainly miss Google+. Classic Google+ was my favourite social media platform. I enjoyed the conversations I had there, which were more sophisticated than most discussion on Twitter and especially on Facebook. I made many friends on G+, and many of them now number among the closest friends I have. What is more, my experience is not unique. I know of many G+ users who can say the same thing. To me that points to the possibility that Google+ could have been a real success if only Google had not constantly undermined its success.

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