YouTube users may have noticed over the weekend that they no longer required a Google+ account to post comments. This is part of a wider plan to pare back the reach of the sometime social network leading many to claim that Google’s social experiment has been a failure.
Let’s look a little deeper.
So what exactly is happening to Google+?
Back in March Google Photos dropped the Google+ name and now YouTube has followed suit. In a nutshell, over the next few months users will find that they no longer have to have a Google+ account to access Google products such as YouTube. Many non-Google+ users were somewhat irked at, not only the requirement placed upon them by Google in order to use such services, but the presumption that users would want to use them. Google may well rule the roost in terms of search but not the internet in general.
In a blog post last week Bradley Horowitz, VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing at Google said of the changes: “they’re right for Google’s users—both the people who are on Google+ every single day, and the people who aren’t.”
In other words Google is acknowledging that many users weren’t using Google+ just because it was Google and that it simply wasn’t right to make it obligatory to have a Google+ account just to access certain features.
Why didn’t it work?
To single out any one particular reason for the demise of Google+ would be perhaps wrong. Let’s not forget that Google+ can claim millions of users and does, in fact, have an active user base. The issue is that Google+ is not Facebook and no matter how much it wanted to be, it never could have been Facebook. Facebook was the first big social network (sorry MySpace) in that it actually promoted social activity, however much it has differentiated from that initial path this is still the core of Facebook’s service. Other social media networks have popped up from Facebook, each filling a particular niche – Twitter is short bursts of information sharing that is current, LinkedIn is the professional network, Instagram is image sharing and comments and so on. Google+ always gave the impression that it never quite knew what it wanted to be and so never really became anything except for another avenue for its search network. Which brings us to…
So what will this mean for Business?
Many businesses cottoned on to Google searches preference for Google+ postings. By posting on Google+ they had a better chance of being found in search, or so the SEO theory goes. It remains to be seen what happens of Google+ but other Google products exist like Google Hangouts and Google Places which effectively lets you use Google as a business directory, so the opportunities for businesses on Google is still there. Google+ is, for the short-term at least, still here also and so businesses still can use it as they would normally do for posting etc. however for how long is anybody’s guess.
The one defining factor in the legacy of Google+ is Google itself, Google isn’t afraid of failure and it certainly isn’t afraid to try new things. It may not have worked as a social network but some aspects of Google+ like its photo editing abilities will remain. Google also has the resources to truly learn from its mistakes too and we wouldn’t put it past them having learned something here. We just don’t know what it is yet.
One thing that is safe to say however is that Google has businesses at its heart and so there will never be a shortage of ideas and backing for Google ventures that help businesses. We will just have to wait and see.