Why Google still isn't giving up on Google+

Why Google still isn't giving up on Google+

Google+ is forcing its remaining users to say goodbye to the website design and format that many people consider to be the hallmark of the struggling social network. After Google+ was overhauled in late 2015 to focus on communities and collections, you were allowed to opt-out of the redesign and remain in classic mode. That option is no longer available beginning today.

Google+ is still in decline, by most accounts, but the company isn’t giving up on its once grandiose social networking project yet. The company is reducing white space, introducing an algorithm to hide spam from comments, and bringing back the ability to create events -- a feature it killed in last year’s redesign, according to a blog post by Danielle Buckley, Google+ product manager. Google is also committed to updates, but it’s unclear how significant those might be considering how much the service has been whittled down since its June 2011 launch.

Google bids adieu to classic Google+

“Just because we’re bidding adieu to classic Google+ doesn’t mean we’re done working on the new one,” Buckley wrote. “Our aim is to make Google+ the best place to connect around the things you care about.” Google says it has released more than 50 enhancements to the Android, iOS and web versions of Google+ during the past 14 months, but many of the features already existed in Google+ classic and simply had to be rebuilt for the new design.

Jan Dawson, chief analyst and founder of tech research firm Jackdaw, says he is surprised Google continues to invest in a platform that has waned in popularity, but Google has already transitioned Google+ into a collection of standalone features. Much of Google+’s original functionality has been stripped out into individual products like Hangouts and Photos, he says.

“Google has a lot more to gain by redesigning Google+ than they do by losing some of their current users,” says Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “I’m sure they appreciate their current user base, but it hasn’t amounted to much strategically or financially yet for Google.”

Is Google+’s future in the enterprise?

The future of Google+ is “bleak” for consumers, but “it looks brighter” for businesses, particularly as Google places a higher priority on its G Suite of productivity apps, according to Moorhead. “Enterprise tools like G Suite could be just the opportunity they’re looking for, but it’s still very uncertain,” he says.

Google+ is never going to be a major force as a social network, but it provides Google and its users with a “social glue” that connects profile identities to many of Google’s services, according to Dawson. “I think those users who have stuck around will likely be fine with the redesign – I don’t think it’s going to be a massive turnoff for long-term users, and at any rate Google probably isn’t going for massive volume in user numbers at this point anyway,” he says.

While Google+ never materialized into the all-encompassing social medium and connective tissue that Google envisioned for the project in 2011, some of the guts of Google+ could eventually benefit the enterprise.

Google is likely frustrated with the performance of Google+, but it has resisted any calls to shut down the service. Following multiple fits and starts, Moorhead thinks Google might be waiting for an opportunity to transition the app, or its framework, into a more promising arena.

“Right now Google+ provides little strategic value to Google and it’s all about a potential enterprise future,” he says. “Just look at the headway Slack is making and the moves Microsoft is making with Teams. These tools are chat services on steroids and if Google wants to create something like it, it needs a high performance architecture like Google+ to pull it off.”

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