It feels like just yesterday that we first got our hands on Google+, the social network that was meant to put more control in the hands of its users through ‘Circles’, rather than a binary list of Friends.
At the time, I wrote that “Google+ just feels like Facebook and Twitter combined with a few more and a few less features,” which wasn’t exactly a unique critique of the social network, a new product which had few fresh ideas.
Just 3 years later, TechCrunch is today reporting that, following the departure of Google’s Vic Gundotra, Google+ is in the process of becoming a platform, rather than a flagship product. While Google has denied these rumours, in a statement saying that “today’s news has no impact on our Google+ strategy,” TechCrunch’s sources say key parts of Google+ 1000-employee collective, such as Hangouts and Photos team members, are moving to the Android team.
Similar to Facebook’s move to independent products, Google+ will become a framework for connecting people, rather than the portal users see today. Sources are also saying that there were tensions over Google+ leaning on successful Google products, such as the YouTube comments section. Gundotra was apparently proud to use these integrations to boost “active user” counts.
In the end, Google+ was always just too similar to the competition. Unlike recent success stories, like Instagram or Snapchat, Google+ was always just a slightly cleaner Facebook. I love the social network, though in the end it failed to find an audience to call its own. David Besbris will take over Gundotra’s role at Google. In the mean time, it’ll be interesting to see whether what Google+ announcements will take place at Google I/O in June.