Google Plus Gasps for Breath Does Anyone Care

There's no mourning in cyberspace, no overt sentimental ramblings on social media — despite yet another move by Google to put its struggling social network out of its misery.

This time, Google is dropping the requirement for all new users to create a Plus account when signing up for a Google network.

Typically when Google chops a product, it triggers a storm of protests. With Plus, though, the blogosphere has been largely silent — a sure reflection of how few people care whether the network fades away.

Social Network Or Not?

The recent announcement brings to mind the tired old philosophical conundrum about a tree falling in a forest. If Google invents a social netweork — and no one uses it — is it really a  social network at all?

Since Plus was launched three years ago, the web has changed a lot. Google doesn’t really need it anymore, even though a Google Plus account is still needed for a few things, like making comments on YouTube.

In fact — and this is only speculation — it seems Google has abandoned its original hope of accomplishing an alternative to Facebook.

Plus instead devolved into a single point of entry for other Google services, and also provided Google with a gazillion user profiles that could be used for marketing and advertising.

Promising Start

Launched in June 2011, Google Plus looked a lot like Facebook with Circles when it finally got up and running. It focused on groups of friends who shared common interests rather than just the trivia that haunts most Facebook pages.

It also offered video chat, Google Hangouts, as a possible alternative to Skype, and instant messaging or group messaging, courtesy of Huddle. 

More importantly, it also provided a single place to sign on to all the Google services that you might be using, including Gmail and Docs (which was later pulled into Google Drive) and others.

But it never really caught on. Why? No one seems to know. Suffice to say Plus became little more than the butt of numerous jokes, until it arrived at a point where everyone beat up on it just because they could.

Its creator Vic Gundotra finally left Google last April after almost eight years at the company without saying why, leaving the way open for the wrecking ball to get into position.

One of the problems about Google Plus is that it is hard to know exactly how many people are using it directly and how many people are just landing on it inadvertently by signing into Google services or through third-party sites. And Google hasn’t been helpful in this respect.

Last year, it was widely reported that Google Plus had 300 million users based on figures released by Google itself. However, the New York Times cites Nielsen from last November, which showed that it had 29 million visitors who spent an average of seven minutes on the site, as opposed to Facebook, which had 128 million spending an average of six hours and 15 minutes. 

That is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of people who spent a lot more time on the site or others who are prepared to defend Google Plus, as a further article in February  in the New York Times showed. 

Goodbye, Google Plus

But it's not enough to make it work in work in a world of Facebook and Twitter. Was the idea all along just to make it an identity manager that enabled Google pull together all the personas people used on its services, creating a single profile that could be used for customer profiling?

If that was something that was necessary three years ago, now it’s a bit old-fashioned. With most web services from most companies requiring sign-on, and with so many people living in their Gmail account, Google doesn’t really need this kind service. The result is the process we are seeing now, of the steady dismantling of Google Plus.

Needless to say, Google hasn’t said what it intends to do. But it’s looking more and more like funeral details will follow.

Title image by Petr Baumann / Shutterstock.