Google+ Social Network Won't Get the Ax

NEWS ANALYSIS: All the speculation and Web chatter that Google is getting ready to pull the plug on Google+ are groundless. Google's social network won't go the way of so many of its other experimental projects.

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.