As Google+ prepares to transition into two quieter products, what can we expect of the remains of the network?
There was once a time where I urged anyone and everyone to use Google+. And I wasn’t alone. Despite the fact that the general response to the term ‘Google+’ was, “I don’t really know what it is or what to do with it,” marketers everywhere were asserting that it was a must for any degree of success with social media and search strategies.
As Bob Dylan once sang (and still does, albeit a little less intelligibly), the times, they are a changin’.
Back in March, Bradley Horowitz, a Google veteran and product VP, confirmed to the world that, yes, Google+ would be transitioning from a full-blown social network (once touted as the ‘Facebook killer‘) into two separate, significantly quieter products: Photos and Streams.
What exactly are these two products?
As someone who has had an iCloud account for years, I can say that I never really went any further in building it up past the factory settings on my iPhone. When I wanted to upgrade my phone, it worked out nicely that I had it, but have I taken the time since then to configure it any further? I have not. What I have done, however, is taken advantage of the storage and cloud capabilities offered by Google+.
One such example is the ability to auto backup any photos taken with your Gmail-connected device to Google+. It is there that my entire history in images is stored. And it is for that reason that Google is salvaging this aspect of the network. For all that Google+ got wrong, it got this right.
Google+ does an excellent job of arranging your photos by trip, date, location and tells wonderful stories when those images are uploaded. It’s a fun feature that is worth saving. And it has Facebook bested (by a significant amount).
Facebook tries to find ways to connect with its audience by sharing flashbacks and stories. More often than not, the images and videos Facebook creates for its users share painful or awkward memories, and those (of course) are the ones that are shared most with the world.
The quiet nature of the Google+ photo feature has lent itself to more success than market cohorts.
The second feature, Streams, is a little harder to understand (in terms of why they would want to save it). If there is one thing that people do not care to use on Google+, it is their feeds. Sure, people might scroll through every once in a while and +1 an article here or there, but ultimately, people will turn to Facebook or Twitter for feeds of digestible content before they go to Google+. So to save this feature seems a little odd.
That said, considering Photos and Streams will be separated and marketed as two distinct apps, we should wait and see what they do with Streams before passing judgment. One hopes that they move away from the native nature of Google+ as it exists now (showing only content that has been shared by my network) and expand it to show content that might be relevant from around the web and my secondary network.
What else can we expect to see saved?
In 2011, a year after Facebook introduced their ‘Like’ button (that only came into existence in 2010!) Google rolled out its response: the Google +1. Expect that to stick around.
The +1 is a valuable indicator as to what content matters to users. The fact that it links to a logged in user’s Gmail account, it tells Google a lot about what is relevant to the user, and what content adds value to the online community. The button helps refine and improve search result accuracy and is so widely used (worldwide) that it wouldn’t make much sense to remove it. Unless the powers that be have an alternative that is equally simple to use and valuable (both for the poster of a piece of content and for Google itself) we shouldn’t see that button go anywhere.
Google+ logins will undoubtedly change, but a Google login will still be very much alive. Again, the user data that a Google login offers both sides of the transaction is hugely valuable, and there is no way that people want to see that go. With Google+ no longer existing as we understand it today in the near future, it will surely change how the login works, but it’ll still be there in one form or another.
Granted, Google Hangouts are not really Google+ specific, but they were certainly born out of the social layer that Google was trying to cultivate with the creation of this social network. Recently, it was announced that Google would be launching a new service called GMeet (pictured above), which would revolutionize the conference call by offering users a way to participate without a pesky dial in. That’s neat, and it is built on the Hangout model, so we definitely won’t lose that.
Google has succeeded and failed in the past; I turn your attention to Gmail and Flu Trends, respectively. But never has such a grandiose undertaking failed so publicly (which, I guess is the downside of having a social network fail). That said, there are clearly a lot of pieces within Google+ that work very well. They just don’t all work together.
As Google prepares to rollout Photos and Streams, the world will wait patiently to see if it can redeem itself after the fall of Google+ to the other giants of the social networking world.