2015 has only just started, yet people are already predicting the untimely demise of Google+. Based on what we’ve seen from the platform in the last several weeks, the outlook does look grim. With the departure of the brains of the operation in mid-2014 (Vic Gundotra) and the reassignment of about a thousand employees it looks as though Google is divesting itself of the millstone that is G+.
But, can they truly get rid of something that has been in development for so long?
From a user’s point of view it would be the biggest fail Google has had to date. Their economic state is by no means bad, but the amount of time and resources spent on a project that failed so spectacularly is liable to rankle in the company’s psyche for years to come. Based on what we see from Google’s development in the last couple months of last year, we can speculate that Google is looking to close up shop on Google+. However, you can just as easily take it to mean that Google is streamlining its development team to make designing and implementing a new version of G+ easier.
The jury’s still out on what Google is planning to do with G+, but I don’t think Google’s going to give up on their brainchild just yet.
The Naysayers Preaching Doom
Quite like the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, tech and social media gurus have warned about Google’s abandonment of the Google+ project. A few of the arguments used to support this point of view are quite compelling on the surface. Google+ isn’t the “Facebook Killer” it was touted to be, but even so, it commands far more active users than Facebook’s nearest social media rival Twitter. It just doesn’t utilize them.
Although Google+ isn’t as active as other social media networks, it still has a dedicated user base that posts regularly. A few million people using the service is far from the “ghost town” that many articles make it out to be.
The unbundling of apps such as Hangouts from the Google+ framework can signal a move to the dumping of G+ altogether, but I think it’s more of a situation where Google realized that hangouts would be far more successful as a stand-alone app than as a G+ widget (which it turns out to be right about). These arguments provide much of the criticism surrounding Google+, but when you break it down, Google has managed to deal with most of these already, and they’re just picking at straws in the wind rather than providing any compelling proof that Google is planning to dump G+.
Why Google May Aim to Salvage G+
No matter what you think Google is, it’s a business first and foremost and the most important thing for any business is the bottom line. The sheer amount of users G+ has makes it a powerhouse in the world of social media. The only thing it lacks is the spark to set it off. Google+ was late on the scene and the platform it introduced to the world was one that was familiar to many users, but far blander than Facebook. The result is that most users opted to stick with their original social media network rather than uprooting themselves and transferring over to the Google+ network.
Google tried their hardest to make G+ acceptable and they had good ideas. Authorship tried to encourage writers to join G+ and use it to host and tag their work in order to gain relevance in search rankings. Authorship was discarded after the poor response from users (mainly because writers found the process of tagging their work clunky and too technical to bother with) adding another failure to Google’s scrap heap of ideas.
The thing that sets G+ head and shoulders above the competition, though, is its sheer number of users. Once Google can find a way to get popular users over to G+ and from there start drawing the crowd, they’re guaranteed to have a massive money-making venture on their hands. Their major problem is getting people to buy the idea.
Google+ in 2015: Boom or Bust?
This pretty much comes down to what Google can do to make G+ more attractive. It’s already an issue with users on Facebook when the layout changes every few months as a result of Facebook’s administration “keeping it fresh” strategy.
If they could utilize that in some way to bring users across they could see a turnaround in the fortunes of G+. The most important thing for Google at this juncture is to find a way to draw the crowd.
Unlike P.T. Barnum, Google can’t just get a traveling elephant and expect the people to come. A social media platform is not a field of dreams: If you build it, they won’t just come. You have to make them want it. Google+’s survival in 2015 comes down to how much Google can make people see the benefit of using Google+. If they fail, it could put the final nail in the coffin for what started out as such an ambitious and well-meaning project.