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The Death and Re-birth of Google+

On Monday, Google announced some big changes to Google+. The Mountain View company will, in the coming months, no longer require users to have a Google+ account to utilize all of the various Google products. Rather, you will only need a standard Google/Gmail account. Bradley Horowitz, Google’s Vice President of Streams, Photos, and Sharing, addressed the changes and the decision in a blog post:

While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we’ve needed to rethink…People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.1

This move has been a long time coming. While Google+ logins were accepted, if unpopular, in the early stages of the integration process, once it was expanded to YouTube, the backlash hit a fever pitch. As such, YouTube will be the first service to completely remove Google+ integration. The YouTube team noted a few of the immediate changes that will take place:

  • First off, we’ve improved the ranking system that reduces the visibility of junk comments. It’s working—the rate of dislikes on comments has dropped by more than 35 percent across YouTube.
  • With today’s announcement from Google+, you’ll see more changes. The comments you make on YouTube will now appear only on YouTube, not also on Google+. And vice-versa. This starts rolling out today.
  • Creators told us they liked the moderation options on their channels, like reviewing comments before they’re posted, blocking certain words, or auto-approving comments from certain fans. All this stays.2

Further, the YouTube blog post went on to note that down the road, users will “no longer require a Google+ profile when you want to upload, comment, or create a channel.”3 The option to use Google+ will remain though.

For whatever my opinion is worth, I think Google+ does a lot of things really well, but not everything. In shrinking down the scope of the platform, Google is giving + a new shot at life; a shot to be what it really is: a content sharing and consumption platform. It has never been, and in my opinion should never try to become, a social network – a la Facebook or Twitter. This was the major problem with the platform to begin with. By branding Google+ as a social network, Google set it up for failure – maybe not failure, but at the very least a major letdown. By eliminating the widespread integration, across nearly every single product, Google is allowing + to shift their resources to realizing a better content network. Horowitz expanded on this idea, fittingly, in a followup Google+ post:

Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired.4

  1. Bradley Horowitz, Official Google Blog, “Everything in its right place,” 27 July 2015  
  2. The YouTube Team, Official YouTube Blog, “Keeping the conversation going,” 27 October 2015  
  3. Ibid  
  4. Bradley Horowitz, Google+ Post, “Everything in Its Right Place,” 27 July 2015