Google announced on Monday that you’ll no longer need a Google+ account to login to YouTube or any of Google’s other websites. Moving forward, you’ll only need a Google account to use these apps and services — not a Google+ account.
This follows a handful of changes to Google+ that the company has been making over the past several months. In March, Google announced its plan to change up its strategy with Google+ by breaking it up into two separate sections: Streams and Photos.
In a sense, this was an indication that Google had given up on pitching Google+ as a social network meant to compete with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
This didn’t come as a surprise — Google+ never really caught on the same way social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn did.
Technically, tons of people use Google+, since until this point you needed to log into it to access to Gmail, Google Drive, and all of Google’s other apps.
But people aren’t actively using the social network aspect of it.
Here’s a chart made by blogger Kevin Anderson, which is based on data compiled by researcher Edward Morbis. His research estimates active Google+ users, defined as those that have made a post to Google+ in January 2015. Morbis analysed sitemaps from Google+ and sampled profile pages based on them to arrive at his conclusions, which he explains in a post on Ello.
Back in April, Business Insider spoke with a few insiders about what happened to the network that Google believed would change the way people share their lives online. Google+ was really important to Larry Page, too — one person said he was personally involved and wanted to get the whole company behind it.
The main problem with Google+, according to one former Googler we talked to in April, is that the company tried to make it too much like Facebook. Another former Googler we spoke to at the time agreed, saying the company was “late to market” and motivated from “a competitive standpoint.”
There may have been some paranoia — Facebook was actively poaching Googlers at a certain point, one source said. Google+ employees within Google were sectioned off, this person said, possibly to prevent gossip about the product from spreading. Google+ employees had their own secret cafeteria called “Cloud,” for example, and others on the Mountain View campus weren’t permitted.
“There was definitely an aura of fear for a time,” this person said.
Another former Googler, however, said the secret cafeteria was just a standard security measure; there are multiple places on Google’s campus where only particular employees’ security cards can be swiped. This person also said he or she didn’t experience any paranoia about Googlers being actively poached by Facebook.
Here are some other things we heard from former Google employees, as we reported several months ago in April:
- Google+ was designed to solve the company’s own problems, rather than making a product that made it easy for its users to connect with others. Google doesn’t have to manage a ton of user profiles for its various apps and services. Logging into Google+ connects you to all of Google’s products, which is useful. But it didn’t yield a social experience that was as simple as those like Facebook or LinkedIn. People had to think about who they wanted to add to circles rather than simply adding someone as a friend on Facebook or adding someone to their network on LinkedIn.
- One person also said Google didn’t move into mobile fast enough with Google+. Facebook, however, realised it was slow to move into mobile and made up for lost time — now most of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile and it owns a bunch of apps. Instead, Google+ focused on high-resolution photos, which were great for desktop experiences and the Chromebook, but took a while to load on mobile.
- Google+ was a “controversial” product inside Google, according to this person. But that’s not too uncommon within Google, since it’s a large company with many employees. People have opinions on everything.
- When Vic Gundotra, who led Google+ and played a big role in creating it, left the company about a year ago, it came as a complete surprise. There was no succession plan, one former Googler said. It was like “here one day and gone the next.”
Although Google+ didn’t boom into a massively successful social network, that doesn’t mean it completely failed. Google+ provided the foundation for the seamless login system we use with Google apps today, although thanks to today’s changes you’ll no longer need to make a Google+ profile. It also paved the way for Google’s new Photos app.
But it’s not a mainstream social network, and it never caught up to giants like Facebook and Twitter in that regard.
Google declined to provide comment for this story when it was originally published. We’ve also reached out to the sources we spoke to in April and will update this story with new insight when we hear back.
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