Google+ Is Alive and Well Despite Persistent Media Reports

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-07-29 Print this article Print
Google Plus Illusion

NEWS ANALYSIS: Repeated news media claims that Google+ is on the verge of extinction appears to be a delusion caused by a social media paradox called the "majority illusion."

A chorus of tech journalists this week is saying that Google is phasing out its social network, Google+.

Where did they get this juicy nugget of information? Well, they made it up. And I'll tell you why. But first, let's look at what the press is saying and compare that with reality.

Here are a couple of example headlines, which directly make the claim: Farewell, Google+, We Hardly Knew Ye—The Daily Beast and Google Further Distancing Itself From Google+—PCMag.

Slate even posted the following headline: Google Plus dying: YouTube comments no longer require social login, but then changed it, presumably because they've been using a variation of that headline since 2011. That's because, with the way content management software works, you can still see the original headline in the URL.

The press has been declaring the imminent death of Google+ since 2011, but this latest fantasy proclamation of Google+ coming to an end was triggered by two events.

The first event is that the official date for phasing out the photo tools that were integrated into Google+ came and went. Google replaced them with the more consumer-friendly and separate Google Photos.

The second is that Google announced Monday that a Google+ login would no longer be required for using YouTube and other Google services.

When Google launched Google+ four years ago, the strategy was to link or integrate nearly every consumer-facing service to Google+, so Photos and Hangouts were built in from the start. Later, a Google+ account was required to use Google Play, YouTube and other Google services.

It was a radical strategy of universal integration, but non-Google+ users didn't like it. And after the departure last year of Google+ chief Vic Gundotra, Google began the slow and gradual reversal of the integration strategy.

Since then, Google has removed these linkages that in hindsight never should have been imposed in the first place.

There are two things at play here. The first factor is Google+ itself. The second is the strategy to integrate Google services into Google+. The integration is being phased out. Google+ is not. The press is confusing these two facts.

The actual implementation of improved social media strategy is repeatedly used by the tech press as "evidence" that Google is phasing out Google+, but in reality this isn't evidence of anything except that Google is undoing its unpopular integration strategy.

In all the echo chamber chatter about Google+ being phased out, the media has completely ignored Google's clear, straightforward communication on all this.

Google+ chief Bradley Horowitz said the decoupling changes are being made mostly to improve Google+. He wrote in a Google+ post this week that "We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+."

In a separate interview, Horowitz said: "Google Plus is not dead. In fact, it's got more signs of life than it's had in some time" and spoke positively about the future of Google+.

Google+ Chief Architect, Yonatan Zunger, responded to a "Google is dead" article on TechCrunch from April by saying that "The TechCrunch article is BS. Google+ isn't going anywhere, I can promise you."

So Google says they have no plans to phase out Google+ and that it's doing well. That information comes directly from the two people with the best information.

The echo chamber tech press, on the other hand, insists on saying Google+ is being killed. Their information comes from nowhere. They made it up.

Of course, some journalists got it right and have been reporting the facts on Google+.

It also needs to be said that Google+ is not succeeding at Facebook levels. But nothing is. Google+ is struggling to compete with Facebook. But so is Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Linkedin and all the rest. And there's no evidence that any of these social networks—including Google+—is about to be closed.

The same thing happened before with Google Glass, and the press didn't learn its lesson.


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