There’s been a lot of speculative chatter about Google+ being closed, killed or at least neglected by Google.
This news would be disconcerting to me, personally, if it were true. I’ve invested uncounted hours cultivating relationships over the nearly three years of its existence. I’ve used the site as my full-time blogging platform, my email newsletter engine, my photo backup and editing platform. Google+ is my main home on the Internet. And it if were to suddenly go away, well, I would be vexed, to put it mildly.
That’s why I’m happy to report that it’s not true. All evidence and reason lead to the same conclusion: Google+ isn’t going anywhere. (They’re also talking about shutting down Twitter, too, and that’s not going to happen, either.)
There are three reasons people say this: 1) Social chief Vic Gundotra is leaving Google; 2) reports on TechCrunch and elsewhere suggest that Google is de-emphasizing Google+ in a variety of ways; and 3) Google+ isn’t nearly as big as Facebook and may never be.
I’ve thought a lot about the worst-case scenarios for Google+, and all of them still leave Google+ as by far the best social anything ever—at least for people like me—and also for businesses. And that’s why I’m super optimistic about the future of Google+.
I’ll tell you about those worst-case scenarios in a minute, but first let me tell you why Google+ isn’t going to be killed by Google.
Google shocked users in the past by closing what some thought were popular sites. The most notable of these was Google Reader, the company’s RSS feed reader and arguably the leading brand in the space.
But Google didn’t kill off Reader because it didn’t have enough users. It’s because RSS isn’t something that’s part of Google’s future. It’s not algorithmically-generated content, but the opposite. It’s not the source of content that has to be selected every day (and thereby generating advertising-data in the form of “signals”), but the opposite. It’s not a source of content where it’s easy to tell which stories are read and which are not (again, for the data), but the opposite.
Google Reader was a direct competitor to more Googley ways to discover and interact with content—namely, Google Search, Google News, Google Currents and, above all, Google+.
By the way, you’ll note that Orkut is still around—Google’s conspicuously obsolete and much smaller-than-Google+ social network. The reason is that Orkut is really a kind of Google+ lite, a site that involves the moving parts of tomorrow’s contextual advertising business—identity, social sharing and user data.
If they didn’t kill Orkut, they’ll never kill Google+.
Google+ isn’t as big as Facebook, but it’s bigger than Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and all the rest. But size is irrelevant at this point. The fact is that it’s way too big and active to kill. Google+ provides the best information Google has at its disposal for understanding hundreds of millions of users’ social relationships, interests, identity and product and brand affinities. Google+ supports serious initiatives in the company like Android, Chrome, Chromebooks, Search and more.
So relax. Google+ is here to stay.
Google+ Social Network Won’t Get the Ax
I would call on Google to step forward and clearly state that it has no plans to kill Google+, but in fact they have done so already.
Why the worst-case scenarios aren’t even bad
In all the gnashing of teeth over possible and actual changes in the Google+ department, three worst-case scenarios emerge.
The first worst-case scenario is that Hangouts would be moved from Google+ to Android. The second is that photos would be moved to Android. And the third is that Google would stop aggressively integrating Google+ into other Google products.
My reaction to all this is: So what? If these changes take place, it takes away nothing from the experience of user Google+. Hangouts aren’t well integrated in Google+ anyway.
Google’s Auto Awesome photo magic all takes place in the cloud and will need a desktop-browser home to compliment the mobile app versions. Keeping it on Google+ or not keeping it on Google+—what’s the difference? As long as I can click one button to share to Google+, it’s all the same thing. So even if the Android team is in charge of it, the experience of using photos wouldn’t likely be seriously affected.
And integrations—such as those implemented in Gmail, Google Play and YouTube—are super nice, but exist mainly as improvements for those other sites, not Google+.
The worst-case scenarios aren’t even bad outcomes for Google+ users.
And this has to be said: You’ve no doubt read articles about how nobody uses Google+, how Google+ is a “ghost town”—that sort of thing. One of my hobbies is to check on the Google+ profiles of every prominent Google+ naysayer. In every single case, these “ghost town” people are non-users or inactive users to the extreme. I still challenge anyone to show me an active Google+ user who says it’s a “ghost town.”
To use Google+ is to bring it alive with activity. It’s like Twitter in that respect. If you open a Twitter account, follow three people, then leave and come back six months later, your Twitter stream will be conspicuously moribund. Google+ is no different.
So ignore the “ghost town” people. They have no idea what they’re talking about.
Why I’m going to keep living in Google+
I’ve been a huge Google+ fan since the beginning. As a site and service, it’s provably superior in most important respects. It’s better designed, more secure, has a better following as well as comments and more. What’s more is it has zero ads.
I’ve cultivated incredibly good relationships with a huge number of active users who continue to be active. I still have incredibly great conversations about topics of all kinds, discover some of the best content on the Internet, crowdsource my ideas effectively, upload and backup all my photos. In short I still think Google+ is the greatest blogging platform ever.
I get enormous value out of Google+ every day. And I see no reason to use Google+ less, or abandon the platform for what I would consider an inferior one.
So anyone is free to freak out about hearsay, rumor and irrational conclusions. For me, I’m going to keep using Google+ as actively as ever.