Last month Google quietly posted in a blog that their little used and much maligned social network – Google+ – will soon be ‘sunsetted’ and so disappear in the format it currently takes. The pretext for this announcement was that earlier this year, in March, a bug or security flaw was found in Google+ which potentially exposed it to privacy issues.
During the course of this year, Google has been reviewing the use of third-party developer access to Google accounts and Android device data, which could potentially create data privacy concerns, with Google+ being at the forefront of this review. The review was partly triggered by the issues Facebook has had, and the difficulties of developing an interactive social network tool that is also able to keep personal information secure.
The bug that was uncovered in March was quickly fixed and Google says that there was no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug or that Profile data was misused. However, it raised concerns about a product that is rarely used and does not warrant the resource to maintain and improve the system, and therefore the company has announced that they are shutting down Google+ for consumers.
Google has admitted that the Google+ tool has not achieved the broad consumer or developer adoption they would have liked and that it has seen limited user interaction with apps. They report that the consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement with 90% of Google+ user sessions being less than 5 seconds.
To give users plenty of notice and a chance to ‘transition’ if required, the wind-down will take place over a 10-month period, with a targeted closure date by the end of August 2019. Over the coming months, Google will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data, if this is seen as important.
Google has found that Google+ is better suited as a business enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network, so they will now be focusing their efforts on the enterprise version of the tool and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses.
So Google+, which was first launched in 2011, will be gone within a year, but will many people care, or even notice? The networking tool was set up originally as a response to the growing success of Facebook, but it was too late to take any significant share from the first mover in this field, and lacked some of the tools and ease of use that Facebook had developed. Google now has to admit that social networking is not their forte and they can’t compete in this space.
For most people, the passing of Google+ will go unnoticed. It has had some benefits in terms of getting content indexed by Google in a short space of time, but there were no direct SEO benefits from using Google+ so the value of posting content there was limited, and it just became an automatic mirror to Facebook and one that was rarely visited by potential customers.
It therefore won’t be missed and will probably gradually fade away, becoming just a distant memory of one of Google’s rare failures, like Buzz and Wave.
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