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