Google is about to kill off a big feature in its struggling social network

Following the launch of its new Photos app in May, Google is preparing to kill off the photo features within Google+, its struggling social network.

In a blog post, the company announced that Google+ Photos will start being shut down on August 1. The Android version will be the first to go, followed by the iOS and Web versions. (We first saw the post over on 9to5Mac.)

The move is part of an “effort to ensure everyone has the best photos experience we can deliver,” and even after Google+ Photos stops working, users’ media “will still remain safely stored and available via or for export using Google Takeout.”

Google+ has never been wildly successful. Despite the massive Google userbase to draw upon, it has failed to emerge as a serious challenger to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter — in January 2015, Edward Morbius estimated just 9% of Google’s 2.2 billion registered users have actively posted content to the platform. He thinks just 0.2-0.3% of Google+ profiles — 4-6 million users — made a public post in the first month of 2015.

Blogger Kevin Anderson plotted the data to show the fraction of registered Google+ accounts that allegedly use the service:

The closure of Google+ Photos is expected. Back at the launch of Google Photos, exec Bradley Horowitz (who oversees Google+) said the company is “looking at what the users are telling us Google Plus is good for, and doubling down on those uses,” as well as “moving aside the things that either belong as independent products, like photos, or eliminating things that we think aren’t working.”

Meanwhile, Google Photos has been getting good reviews from journalists and commentators, due to its organisational features and extremely powerful image recognition features. It makes sense that Google is now consolidating its efforts and concentrating on what works.

Horowitz maintains that Google+ is not “dead.” He told Backchannel in May that “it’s got more signs of life than it’s had in some time.” However, he says, “it’s fair to say you’re about to see a huge shift in what Plus is becoming.”

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