Google is winding down Google Plus, says report. But does it make sense?

April 25, 2014

In the wake of Vic Gundotra’s departure from Google, TechCrunch reports that the company actually plans to scale back its Google Plus efforts substantially.

Vic Gundotra, who’s been with Google since 2007 following a long stint at Microsoft, is considered the father of Google Plus, and one of the lead proponents of the integration of a social dimension into all Google products. If TechCrunch is to be believed, the biggest reason for Gundotra’s departure was actually the company’s intention to put Google Plus on the backburner. According to “multiple sources” cited by the website, Google will no longer try to develop Plus into a real Facebook competitor, and will limit its use to a platform role, a social backbone to other services such as Gmail or Hangouts.

As part as this shift, many of the 1,000 to 1,200 people working on Google Plus will be reassigned to different groups. The Hangouts team has reportedly joined the Android group, and the Photos team could follow it in the future, says the report.

The Wall Street Journal corroborates part of the story, reporting that the Google Plus team has been relocated within the Google campus, from its previously central position. Teams that are deemed important inside Google are placed closer to the office of the CEO, reports the WSJ, so a move may signal a demotion of sorts. Then again, teams move around the campus all the time, said a source of TechCrunch.

Google Plus is not “officially” dead, but without its leading figure and with a reduced workforce, the project’s future is grim, claim the aforementioned sources.

google plus meme

How credible is this report?

Google has invested enormously in Google Plus, and not just financially. Its decision to push Google Plus integration into many of its other services caused a backlash, especially in the case of YouTube. But until now, Google’s resolve to make Plus work appeared unshaken. Could that change?

The company strongly denied TechCrunch’s report:

“Today’s news has no impact on our Google+ strategy — we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts and Photos.”

And in his comment on Vic Gundotra’s post announcing his leaving, CEO Larry Page didn’t give away hints of any changes:

“Then you built Google+ from nothing.  There are few people with the courage and ability to start something like that and I am very grateful for all your hard work and passion.  I really enjoy using Google+ on a daily basis, especially the auto awesome movies which I really love sharing with my family and friends.  Good luck with your next project after Google.  In the meantime we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans”

Moreover, while TechCrunch claims it based its report on multiple sources, the story seems a collection of hearsay tidbits, rather than a scoop based on hard info from a solid source. It’s possible that Google is indeed reorganizing its workforce, moving Hangouts and Photos away from the Plus boss, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Google Plus is dead, or for the matter, a “walking dead,” as the report describes it.

Why would Google even kill Plus? Sure, it’s nowhere near as popular as Facebook. But Google Plus serves a more important role as a social glue for Google services, and in this respect, it’s been quite successful. Unifying all of Google’s disparate, sometimes conflicting identity services into one all-encompassing social backbone has been a major achievement, YouTube trolls aside.

What seems more likely is that Google’s attitude towards Plus has changed, which would explain Gundotra’s departure. It’s possible that the company’s leadership decided that Plus is not as important as initially thought, hence the move of the Hangouts and Photos teams under new bosses. That’s a pretty good reason for an ambitious executive like Vic Gundotra to leave.

Danny Sullivan of Marketing Land puts forward another theory – that Google is separating its social apps (Plus, Hangouts, Photos) to make them more flexible, just like Facebook is said to be doing with the unbundling of its “big blue app” into separate offerings.

What seems safe to say for now is that Google’s social component isn’t going anywhere. But it may change radically in the future.

How do you use Google Plus?

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Comments

  • StraightEdgeNexus

    Orkut 2 eh. Another service in Grave.

  • Shark Bait

    I don’t think Google plus has ever been a real Facebook competitor, and I don’t think Google wants/needs it to be. It already exists as a platform for Google to use and do cool things with like hangouts and photos, a platform to help provide cool services, and a platform to collect a little more user data for targeted adds. I don’t think its ever been a main stream Facebook style network, and this report says it never will be. In my opinion this report changes nothing

  • Simos Katsiaris

    one problem, you got the news from an untrustworthy source…..

  • RarestName

    It worked. I love using Google+ now.

    • Tj

      Lol

    • Nick McGrath

      Google+ sucks.

  • http://www.multicorechina.com/ Multicorechina.com

    this was vox-populi all across the San Jose valley like months ago..

  • namesib

    I still haven’t signed up for it. I have simply stopped using the services where it is mandatory; this forced approach pisses me off.

    • Calvin Uijlen

      Seems like a dumb decision to me.

  • Omran Terro

    No way! ; Google won’t shut down Google+ ; they have 400+ millions users (active users) ; they just need few tweaks.
    Besides it’s a full-featured social network.

    • Vagabnd

      I would challenge the active users part unless they are counting YouYube commenters. Because I personally know 4 or 5 peers that actively use Google + the social network aspect comparing that number to Twitter or Facebook it’s an afterthought at most.

      • http://phillipmarquez.name/ Phillip Marquez

        You don’t think a measly 400M active users is possible? Look at some of the most popular personalities out there that have millions of followers on their own. Yeah, that’s people that have actively added them to a circle. Sure there will be overlap but c’mon, 400 million is not that huge of a number all things considered.

        Pull your head out of the sand and stop making assumptions on something you have not delved into. Just because your own personal experience doesn’t jive with what someone else says doesn’t make it impossible.

        If we wanted to do that then I could also say that while 3/4 of my family is still on Facebook (where I keep my social circle pretty tight at 187 friends — most of which are mere acquaintances anyway), the vast majority of my real life friends (tech/web industry) are on or at least active on G+. Additionally, I have a much, much richer interaction with people I’ve never met in person vs the acquaintances back over on FB (most of which are either from school many years ago or ex co-workers — neither of which I talk with). Oh, and by subscribing to pages for companies, various websites, etc. I have pretty much eliminated my need for a separate feed reader for news feeds.

        Oh, and I also don’t feel like punching the screen because of FB ads all over the place.

        So yeah, let’s compare anecdotal data. How many people do you (truthfully now…) have meaningful interactions with on FB? We talking purely social or are you doing any business networking? Do you have plenty of meaningful and relevant news coming in or is it pictures of people’s kids, pets and random plates of food? What about Twitter? I won’t lurk and post but I see some activity there including one from Radio Shack. Fun.

        It’s hard to compare against G+ because you won’t see all of my interactions with communities and other people’s posts unless you were actually active in those circles (har). That’s part of the beauty — I get what is important to me, not what Google thinks is important to me. Control is in my hands. How are you managing that Twitter feed?

        People that don’t take the leap assume G+ is horrible and nobody is there. The only way you’ll fully realize what you’re missing is if you really commit to using the platform. It’s not going to start with overwhelming amounts of posts (unless you subscribe to tons of suggested circles, but then you’re kind of missing the point). You have to spend some time cultivating your circles, make them meaningful and in turn you’ll find SO MUCH relevant content that you’ll wonder what took you so long to join. Then go off and find some communities, make a few new friends and you’ll wonder why you spent so much time having shallow one or two line conversations with people about topics you really don’t care about.

        Seriously. Try it for a month. Like really give it a go. Then come back and post your thoughts. Until then, your anecdotal opinions are mostly worthless. (sorry, that sounds a bit harsh but it’s true — you might as well be lecturing me about micro-biology or nuclear physics. If you don’t have any experience with something, how can i take you seriously?

        • Vagabnd

          First off you are making the assumption that I don’t use G+. I’ve been around since it was by invite only, so I have seen it change and grow over the years and I enjoy using it for many of the reasons that you mentioned.

          It’s fantastic for things I want to geek out on and to learn more about and it’s great that you can easily curate the fire hose of information. But from a socializing with friends, family, peers, I still find it lacking because while I have a lot of friends on there from the initial it’s the new thing rush, few have stayed around and stayed active.

          I looked up to see what Google counts as an active user and found this…. “Google counts anyone who’s signed up for Google+ as a “user,” and anyone signed in to Google who interacts with a product “related” to Google+ — YouTube, Google Play, and the Google search engine, to name three — as an “active user.”

          Source http://www.quora.com/Google+/How-does-Google+-define-a-monthly-active-user

          Google just defines it much differently than I would so the 400 M number is not out of the realm of norm when using their criteria.

          • Sheila C. Barber

            I just want to say about the numbers Facebook does tend same thing. I’ve been through numerous names with no info, picture etc., that’s been there WAY too long! Even for myself, I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to get rid of my duplicate account. It took a while, but it was finally deleted. Sooo, it goes both ways.

          • amclarenf95284

            die painfully mate…

        • Sheila C. Barber

          Omg, I am Not as eloquent as you are with my writing, but I SWEAR I am with you 100%! It’s like you took my thoughts about this & explained it for me. And what I wasn’t thinking, I’m certainly thinking now. Thank You

    • Will S.

      How many of these active users have any idea they are using “Google+”??

  • MasterMuffin

    The TechCrunch’s article is so bad that I’d give it -1/10, no credibility

    • Komkon

      Agree with you on this one. I can’t believe they spout something nonsense like that.

  • GandangaTororo

    Buzz part 2, hangouts default is video calling, cannot install on Windows as a stand alone app. Gtalk until they kill it.

  • Keith Walker

    I do like using Google+. The communities they have there are awesome. However I am not a big fan of its forced integration into the likes of YouTube or Google Play.
    I really would like to see Google scale back the integration and keep Google+ as its own separate service. Gmail should really be the backbone or “platform” for Google’s services.

  • Miguel Ripoll

    Be faster, less sticky bars, and more integration. That’s it :)

  • paxmos

    Any website that forces me to login with facebook or google+ to comment, is not worth my time.

    • ichuck7

      It helps counter mean trolls so I’m for it.

      • smokebomb

        I don’t sign in with Facebook or Google+. Absolutely refuse.

        • Vagabnd

          I get it, but at certain point the last thing I want to do is sign up for yet another service. It’s the convience factor.

    • Will S.

      Yeah, also in general I hate services & apps that require you to sign up to something before you use the service. It’s simply not user friendly.

  • Emiliano Nahuel Cecchi

    I think hangout has to separate from google+ cause it appears there for me to chat with Obama!!
    But I think that Google+ has to continue as a social network for consumer that wanna communicate and see whats new in their favorites companies.

  • MrJigolo

    I for one am glad. I hate that this is being pushed down our throats and limiting it to a social backboon to Gmail and Hangouts seems to be the best place for it. Google+ has made Youtube worse over the past few years and is trying to take over my photos on Android (yes I know you can turn it off). It’s something that should be there but shouldn’t have to be turned off.

    Tuning it down a bit is good for all of us.

  • Evriviadis Karagitsis

    That’s sad. I hated G+ 2 years ago. It seemed laggy and ungly. Now it’s a beautiful modern and clean social network with lovely communities. What I did not like about it is how Google tried to force it upon us. People hated that. The integration of plus into YouTube was a joke. Google did everything in their power to force it on us. That was a bad decision. They should not be so hasty and work to make it cooler and better and eventually people will start using it. I don’t care if G+ will beat Facebook or not. There are reasons I started using it and left Facebook. Was mostly to avoid the endless spam from ads and notifications and start using that is more social and not just a place seeing people to get laid with or play flash games with fake accounts. Google photos is also an awesome tool. I really hope Google will not abandon it and continue improve it.

    • JWolf_PDX

      Couldn’t have said it better. I hope all the selfie, narcissistic generation stays on Fakebook and stays off of G+. That’s one of the primary reason’s I like G+. It’s phenomenal as an aggregator for the stuff that I’m truly interested in, and finding others who are interested in the same stuff(+1 for communities), not whether one of my ‘friends’ e.g. someone I went to highschool with and haven’t spoken too since, went skydiving, got a tattoo, had breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or some other inane activity that I could give two shits about. It’s a contest to see who’s life is more exciting. BARF.

      I have real life friends that don’t require some fake social network to interact with me, to hang out with, to grab a drink with, to grab dinner with. None of which gets posted to some lame assed social media site.

      I think the techcrunch holds no water, or at least I hope so. I don’t want G+ to go anywhere.

  • Victor Who

    IMO, Google+ should be iGoogle on steroids.

  • ichuck7

    I use Google+ for ingress. I like it.

  • ichuck7

    I honestly don’t see what the big deal is with integrating YouTube and google +. Sounds like people just want to complain about something,

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      That was blown hugely out of proportion, thanks in part to media eager to pick on Google’s “ghost town”.

    • yeah

      Because integrating YouTube or Picasa with it was the same as for example forcing Facebook on Flickr or Vimeo users. Makes no sense.there are drawbacks to having yet another social profile, or any for that matter.

      I use no products that depend on + for functionality. I don’t use +

  • Jonathan Mooney

    Why, why, why? Google+ is awesome! It’s SO much more interesting than Facebook and simpler than Twitter. The interface is awesome and there’s a great community. It’s actually kind of nice using a social network that every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the world isn’t on. Less clutter.

    • Michael Samsara

      It must be a slow news day Jonathan. From everything I was able to gather from article – which did state in no uncertain terms the report was not confirmed, as well as comments everyone may well be jumping the gun and it could well be another case of Mark Twainism.

      One time it was reported in a newspaper that Mark Twain had died – in advance of his actually having done so – his rejoinder was, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

      If G+ is going to die or be relegated to the back burner, it will be because there was no viable role for it to play in the marketplace and all the power of Google nor all the lamentation in the world will avail to stop it from being so. Time only will tell.

  • http://www.pavelkounine.com/ Pavel Kounine

    I like G+ as a different type of social neetwork than what Facebook has created.

  • smokebomb

    Google+ is just a photo repository for me. It would be one hell of a project to try and get my family and friends not already on it to move.

  • Damian Hoskin

    It’s official! TechCrunch injected just one marriwanna.

  • inez blafla

    Backbone objectives aside, the youtube integration was a disaster, but it will be a great shame if the pendulum swings to the other extreme, and they change the priorities for the truly differentiating and successful services like hangouts. I personally enjoy G+ & recommend it widely for business purposes. But if it hasn’t got a bit of sparkle, it will be hard to keep active there when so much action is elsewhere. And it sure will go down as an unbelievably wasteful /idiotic management pissing contest/turf war. That said, stranger things have happened, and I shall be following events chez Google closely, and comparing them to the extent of the backlash from heavy handed FB ad integrations, before I again advice friends and SME’s to jump in wholeheartedly with G+.

  • Ruz

    Both google plus and hangout are no way in the competition.. Niether they have listened to thier customers and made the changes in their program. So this is clear that it wont sustain the cost and operation.. Bye Bye G+.. we dint miss u at all

  • roger’d

    I much prefer the Google+ experience over Facebook. On all levels. For me, the unfortunate thing and the only reason that I continue to use FB is that all of my friends are. Stupid, I know … but for those times when I want to see what everyone’s up to, or to share some laughs when my dog does something hilarious (which is like every day) I am forced to go there. I loathe FB to be honest, but am forced to use it because that’s where the majority are. Any ideas on how to force people to convert? ;)

    • mobilemann

      google+ IMO is utterly destroyed by facebook, for the simple reason that everyone i know, (i’ve lived in 3 countries in my life) is on it. You can’t force people to convert.

  • John Garlits

    I think G+ is set up better than FB which is more of a free-for-all. Also, the sign-in feature I often find convenient both on the web and with apps. And I trust Google whole a lot more than FB. I don’t actually visit it that much, but it also doesn’t bother me as much, which is fine for me.

  • Will S.

    The UI and most aspects of Google+ are awesome. But forcing people to use is simply too far Google. I’ve stopped using some Google services because G+ is being shoved down our throats.

    Anyway, I hope they’ve listened to users and take a few step backwards.

  • Michael Rahmani

    I seriously would be very upset if they shut down Google+. Use it everyday!

  • Arise Rayamangalam

    Even though Google Plus is not a comparator to Facebook, it have some unique features like not limiting the friendship within the known group as the Facebook do, so that the principle of the Internet is keep up

  • Krystyna

    Google Plus has many many fun communities to join. I love posting photo’s and seeing others that are out there. The translation tool is great for talking with people in other countries. I have people from all over the world in my circles I wouldn’t have got to know them through Facebook. I’ve also found the support from them amazing, always encouraging and friendly. It makes my day seeing what others have posted and their responses to my posts. I’d really miss Google Plus I hope it continues as it is.

  • Ryan Kim

    Although I use Google+ a lot, I would be very happy if they discontinued it, for I would be able to procrastinate much less and do things with my time that are actually useful.

  • iTriune

    Not that I know, but I think Google is going to try to make G+ a mobile only platform similar to Instagram. I think they’re going to do away with the web experience and leave it to that. I’m not in favor because I love G+ but that’s what it seems like to me.

  • http://www.attractorconsulting.com Vince Lammas

    Anyone who wants to dumb down Google+ to be a competitor or rival solution to Facebook needs to have their bumps felt (a British phrase). The richer and more dynamic interaction found on Google+ and the features for community and collaborative working leave FB standing miles in “the distant behind”.

    It’s interesting to finally have people I already know in the UK turning up on Google+ after a couple of years – by which time I am regularly interacting with hundreds of people I didn’t initially know but now have so much in common with.

  • http://phillipmarquez.name/ Phillip Marquez

    Currently 10% of the poll says they don’t use Google+ at all. I wonder if they are curious about what they are missing… (Every day users are at 60%).

    Not only do I use this as my primary social platform, I find myself rarely looking elsewhere for news (I’ve literally gone days without looking at Feedly, which used to be more like once every 1 or 2 hours…)

  • Amno Chotan Samkura

    I use it daily have found great communities of real people and techie and otaku and lovers classic japanese cars. nothing close on Facebook or anywhere else. Please Google keep it going.

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  • Mathieu Laflamme

    Astonishing to see the vote results! 60% use G+ daily… I did not expect that. But on an android website the google fanboy ratio must be high :-) I’m one myself!

  • K2

    The headline is misleading, it says ‘winding down’. When no evidence yet exists. Only some employees of the g+ team have been transferred to other sections/services within google.

    G+ is still being run.

  • Vincent Carlos

    to be honest, i expect google plus to beat facebook. I think that it’s easier to manage things since people are using google service. And the cons in facebook is that facebook has complicated security settings…

  • MaverickDK

    57% people say it’s their primary social network. World is full of liars. Too much of Google fanaticism.

  • Otto Andersson

    I know I might be going to the lion pit here. I’m a paying Google user of a few services but Google Plus isn’t good. It’s mandatory integration with things is obnoxious. I hate that my Google Plus pictures constantly pop up on my Android phone. It’s a pain to get rid of for a common user and it constantly finds its way back.

    They took away an excellent functioning latitude and shoved a worse version into Plus. I need not even mention YouTube comments.

    They need to stop trying to emulate Facebook and bring back privacy and anonymity to the forefront. If not, other countries are going to continue dropping Google for their needs expansion.

    Google needs to focus on improving their stock offering, in android because it’s growing stale. I just switched to a rom made by users tweaking stock and it’s infinitely more intuitive without this Google Plus BS. I loved it so much that Im switching over to the same rom on my Nexus 7 and 10. Google’s bread and butter is from software, so they need to focus on the software people want.

    Google right now is just a lesser of evils, but they have much room for improvement.

  • http://twitter.com/RodneyDickson Rodney Dickson

    I feel that the real backlash caused by Google+ was really the ‘upsell’ marketing trying to force Google+ down user’s throats instead of allowing them to ease into the product and its offerings. I myself required it to continue to contribute to YouTube’s social aspect, and that was fine, but it was the constant ‘Hey, use your real name’, ‘Hey, let others find you on Google+’, ‘Hey, everything you do on any Google product will be shared on Google+’, etc that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Also, why do I need two Google+ pages for the same account? Cause my YouTube identity doesn’t use the formatting of my full name, and therefore, I have to manage two Google+ pages. Frankly, I feel that it’s policy like this that turn people away from the G+ platform.

  • http://www.dmzilla.com/ DMZilla

    Google Plus recently celebrated its third and probably the last birthday on 28-Jun-2014. Three years and this service from Google has failed to make an impact in the market dominated by the likes of Facebook and tweets of Twitter.

    Google is also back-pedaling on the way it was using Google Authorship in search results to encourage authors to use the service.

    Is it really dying?

    http://dmzilla.com/2014/07/08/is-google-plus-dying-at-a-young-age-of-three-years/