Google’s failed experiment to create a social network to compete with the 800-lb. gorilla Facebook is over. Today the company announced that they are shutting down Google+:
Google+, a social network that we can certainly say existed and not much more, is slated for a long-overdue trip down the memory hole.
A ten-month sunsetting period was announced in a Google blog post today about increased security efforts, dubbed Project Strobe, which found a bug in Google+ that could have leaked some personal information users posted to their profiles, though according to Strobe’s analysis no one else was aware of or took advantage of the vulnerability.
That may have something to do with Google+’s relative obscurity as an online social destination. Despite integration with the company’s other, hugely successful products like Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube, Google admits usage is negligible. In the company’s own words, “90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”
Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that almost no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support. Users (whoever they might be) have had plenty of time to download and migrate their data before the platform’s final days arrive in August of next year.
According to an article in The New York Times:
Google said it would shut down Google Plus, the company’s floundering answer to Facebook, after it discovered a security vulnerability that exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users of the service.
When the company’s technical staff discovered the bug in March, they decided against disclosing the issue to users because they hadn’t found anyone that had been affected, the company said in a blog post on Monday.
That decision could run afoul of relatively new rules in California and Europe governing when a company must disclose a security incident. In the blog post, Google said its “Privacy & Data Protection Office” decided the company was not required to report the security issue.
The incident could face additional scrutiny because of a memo to senior executives reportedly prepared by Google’s policy and legal teams that warned of embarrassment for Google — similar to what happened to Facebook earlier this year — if it went public with the vulnerability.
The memo, according to The Wall Street Journal, warned that disclosing the problem would invite regulatory scrutiny and that Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, would likely be called to testify in front of Congress.
I actually will be rather sorry to see Google+ go, but I can certainly understand the decision. Nothing can compare to the initial excitement when the social network launched, but the feeling of euphoria didn’t last very long. As I have written:
…I joined Google+ when it launched in the summer of 2011, and I immediately began having real conversations with people instead of avatars [on Second Life], participating in face-to-face in hangouts, and posting items that people enjoyed and thanked me for writing. That first year was a heady and exhilarating time, hard to describe to someone who wasn’t there.
But after that first year, things went rapidly downhill and usage dropped off precipitously. Hangouts, which were great fun and a novelty at first, did not catch on the way that Google obviously hoped they would. Eventually, Google+ became a virtual ghost town.
Now I’m going to have to sit down and figure out exactly how to back up all my Google+ posts (over 18,000 of them!). I don’t want to lose them. I guess I’d better figure out how to use Google Takeout to save my stuff…
One group that will be hard hit by this decision is the Opensim Virtual community, which has been a primary source of information on OpenSim developments for years now. Perhaps Talla Adam will move the group over to Facebook, where any number of Second Life related groups seem to be doing well.
UPDATE Oct. 9th: Lauren Weinstein has written a must-read editorial on Google (the company) in general and Google+ (the platform) in particular on his blog: The Death of Google.
And a petition to save Google+ has already gathered over 10,000 signatures over on Change.org, but I personally don’t think it’s going to make Google change their mind:
Mike Elgan, who was a passionate user of Google+, writes:
Remember Yahoo? Twenty years ago, Yahoo.com got more traffic than any site on the internet. But it failed to evolve.
In place of evolution or innovation, Yahoo simply started buying everything with the intention of integrating it. But it was unable to integrate anything in a compelling way.
Eventually, Yahoo simply became the company that closed things. It quickly became clear that nobody should invest any time, energy or money into supporting or using Yahoo because whatever product you invested in would likely be shut down, killed off, closed for business.
Now, Google is the new Yahoo.
Google is the company that kills its own products.
Google’s M.O. is to launch some new product or service with great fanfare, convince it’s loyal fans to go all-in, allow those fans to devote countless hours with the product, then kill the product and leave the devoted fans with nothing.
They did it with Reader, Inbox, Answers, Lively, Glass, Orkut, Buzz, Wave, Nexus Q, Dodgeball and many others.
The closure of Google+ is the biggest slap in the face ever, by far.
Google told us Google+ was the future of Google. So we jumped in and engaged. Personally, I’ve spent thousands of hours lovely crafting publication-quality opinion pieces. This is what I do for a living, and I gave my time and labor over to Google+ for free.
Now, Google is going to flush all my work down the toilet.
Google has been working hard for years to push away its most loyal fans. Now, Google is going even further.
In fact, the killing of Google+ is a perfect storm of Google’s vision vacuum. It’s driven by their antipathy toward passionate users, and also their failure to understand the human element generally.
Google has failed utterly with every social network they’ve ever launched, and the reason is that, culturally, Google simply can’t understand human beings.
I recently got rid of my MacBook Pro and bought a high-end Pixelbook. And I was leaning toward buying a Pixel 3. But now I’m off the fence. I’ll be buying iPhones from now on.
And I can’t even imagine what will happen when Google decides to kill Google Photos.
Google simply can’t be trusted.
Google is the new Yahoo, the company that kills its own products.
Which Google product is next?