Over the last year, many of us have asked if Google+ will survive. Earlier this month we got some, albeit vague, answers.
On March 1st, Google announced upcoming changes to the platform that would effectively divide the network's social media aspects into two new brands, Google Photos and Google Stream. This will most likely will mean the discontinuation of the Google+ interface.
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior VP of products, briefly addressed the decision at the Mobile World Congress, stating, "Google Plus was always two big things: one was building a stream and one was what you call a social layer... how sharing works across our products and services. The second one is, in some ways, is an even more important role for us. We have entered the stage where... photos and communications are big steps for standalone use cases. We will think of the stream first and then photos and communications as big areas. Internally, we are organizing that way to support that and you will see us evolve."
Tellingly, the Google executive publicly commenting on Pichai’s statement was Bradley Horowitz. He shared, "Just wanted to confirm that the rumors are true — I’m excited to be running Google’s Photos and Streams products! It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users." Horowitz has taken the management reigns from David Bresbis and will lead this product separation. It’s not clear what role Besbris will be taking next. Like Horowitz, he has been with Google since 2008.
Mashable believes the shift in strategy for Google+ has been years in the making. Google launched the social network nearly four years ago after a series of false starts in the social space, including Orkut and Google Buzz. Most know what happened next. Google+ gained plenty of press at first, but usage in the stream appeared to fizzle out except for a core group of hardcore users.
Some great questions have been asked along the way. Did Google+'s stream product replace peoples' use of Facebook's stream product? No. Did Google+ fail? Perhaps. However, some say that's not the relevant question. Which is: Is Google in a better position today to provide identity services across products? Yes.
By splitting up Google+ into parts, Google may be able to get out from under the weakened Google+ brand and encourage employees and users to think about updates through a different framework. It can continue to innovate on its photo editing and sharing features, which have earned praise in recent months from the tech press and develop communication tools under the promising Hangouts brand. As for the stream product, some speculate that Google could make it more focused on topics and communities. Possibly, more Pinterest or Twitter-like. We shall see.