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Year in Review 2016: Google+ - Creators, Collections and Communities


In June 2016, Google+ turned 5 years old. It was a relatively quiet birthday celebration, with special wallpapers and shared memories. But after all that time, 2016 seems to me to be the year Google+ is finally starting to come into its own.

Rewind back to July 2015, when Google+ announced a shift in focus from being the social layer across all Google products to a simpler and more focused interest-based social network. To that end, a brand new Google+ was launched in November 2015. And this year, the focus was on building up that new Google+, both transferring features from classic Google+ and adding entirely new features.

When the new Google+ web experience became the default in September, it looked like Google+ had indeed been reincarnated.

Collections - which turned one year old in May - are the centerpiece, and new search and discovery features promote Collections before people or individual posts. As Eli Fennel opined "Complaining that your G+ engagement has gone down because you're refusing to use Collections, is like being on Twitter 8+ years ago and complaining that your engagement has gone down because you refused to use hashtags."

Communities got a major spam-fighting update with the ability to hold posts for review. Community post are also now sorted by "relevance" by default, which annoys me (I like to see them in chronological order), but probably makes good posts more discoverable to community browsers or new members.

And finally, after all these years, Google+ became a core G Suite Google Apps for Work service. "This means that Google+ will have the same technical support and service level commitments as any other core service, like Gmail or Google Drive" for G Suite customers. The catch? G Suite users can only use the new Google+ interface. Classic Google+ is no longer supported.

But most of those classic features can be found elsewhere:
The only major feature that's missing is Events. We know those won't be moved in their current form to to the new Google+, but I'm hoping that 2017 brings some kind of Events replacement. 

There are other settings and features that haven't yet made it to the new Google+ (such as setting a custom URL), and others that could use some work (such as posting photos and videos). 

Overall, I think the new Google+ is mostly ready for prime time.  For  users who have been clinging on to the old classic Google+ user interface, I think it's time to say goodbye to the old, and in with the new. 

My top Google+ 2016 Updates

  • Links and images in comments (Google+ even provided a special animated +1 GIF for commenting)
  • Google+ Communities can now hold posts for review
  • Schedule Google+ posts to your Profile with social media management tools like Hootsuite (now they just need to update to support Collections!)
  • Drag and drop images to posts and comments
  • New Google+ Notifications Center on desktop
  • Google+ promotes creators with the Google+ Create program (plus programs in Portuguese and for Indian creators)
  • Google+ supports and promotes Community owners with the new Vanguards program
  • Google+ is now a core Google Apps for Work service
  • Google+ Featured Photos in Mac screensaver and Android Wallpaper  
Read on for all this year's Google+ updates and tips!


2016 Google+ Updates


I just want to note that looking through the list of this year's updates, it's really fantastic that Google+ is sharing all this information with us. Other Google products make updates all the time too, but most go unannounced, and often largely unnoticed.

Programs, Communities and Creators

This year Google+ created programs to support and promote its most active and passionate users.

  • May Google+ Create showcases inspiring creators - and members get some cool benefits! Apply today! 
  • October Google+ Community Owners: the new Vanguards program is for you! 
  • October Do you coach users on Google+? Share your #CreateBuddy experience in the official Google+ Collections Community
  • November Google+ wants to hear about your accomplishments #ThatsAPlus
  • July Google+ Create em Portugu√™s
  • July Indian Google+ers: check out the new Google+ Create India
  • October Google+ Community Owners: the new Vanguards program is for you! 
  • October Indian creators: Join the Google+ Collections - India Community (a special place in addition to the original Collections Community)
Desktop and cross-platform general updates

Common themes: better search, better content discovery, more account tools. And that's in addition to new features like images in comments. Note that Community updates get their own section below.
  • January Manage your Google+ activity: posts, comments, poll votes, +1s and more
  • January Google+ Web Preview update: pin a post, easier move to Collections, simpler Community invites
  • January Google+ addresses accessibility issues
  • February Google+ Web Preview update: improved people search, view large profile photos, redesigned Following screen and more
  • February Additional Google+ Web Preview update: real-time new posts indicator
  • February Google+ Web Preview update: upload multiple images to a post, accept or reject spam comments, search for community members and more 
  • February Google+ Developers should now follow the Google Developers for announcements about the Google+ API, buttons and developer tools
  • February Google+ Web Preview update: clearer access to profile info, visible Community "About" info, create Collection when posting
  • March "About" intro, tag line and story returns to the new Google+
  • March Google+ web preview update: better Collection sharing, post pinning, search history & more
  • March Google+ Web Preview update: search in Communities, drag images to reorder
  • April Google+ Search update removes nearly identical posts in search results
  • April Google+ Web Preview update: Hovercards are back!
  • April It's now easier to view and manage people blocked in Google+ and Hangouts in your Google account 
  • May Collections turn one year old
  • May Google+ Web Preview update: Polls! (and more)
  • May Chris Poole (moot), founder of 4Chan, joins Google, will contribute his experiencebgv building communities (note, it's not clear he's working on Google+. Also, see Yonatan Zunger’s comments)
  • June  Google+ turned 5 years old
  • June Google+ now shows you "what you missed "
  • June Google+ Web Preview update: find related Collections, Community owner options and more
  • July Google+ web preview update: Recently visited Communities, Collection Follower Counts
  • July Google+ Web Preview update: related Collections, new format for re-shared posts and more
  • August New metrics on Hangouts and changes to Google+ activity metrics
  • August Find your Google+ Photos from Posts, Profile Images and Cover Art in your Google Album Archive
  • August Google My Business app no longer supports Brand Pages or other Google+ data
  • August Google My Business Insights for local businesses will no longer include Google+ data, focuses on Search and Maps
  • August Google+ Improves Collections Search
  • September Hangouts on Air is moving from Google+ to YouTube Live Events 
  • September New Google+ Notifications Center
  • September Google+ Update: links and images in comments
  • September The new Google+ is now the default experience
  • September Chrome browser notifications for Google+ 
  • September Google+ Web Update (September 9): Related Community suggestions, improved search autocomplete
  • September Schedule Google+ posts to your Profile with social media management tools like Hootsuite
  • October Google+ is now a core Google Apps for Work service 
  • October Google+ web update: turn off comment animation in your Stream, view poll results before you vote
  • November Google+ Desktop Notifications update
  • November Easier Google+ posting: drag and drop images to posts and comments
  • December New Google+ Featured Photos Mac screensaver and Android Wallpaper 
  • December Improved Google+ search for Collections and Communities 
  • December Find more content: scroll through Community and Collections recommendations in your home stream on the new Google+ Web experience
Community updates

There were enough updates for Communities to put them in their own category. Nice!
  • February Google+ Web Preview update: search for community members and more 
  • February Google+ Community update: public member lists will no longer display suspended accounts
  • February Google+ Web Preview update: visible Community "About" info and more
  • March Google+ Web Preview update: search in Communities
  • March Google+ update: improved search for Communities
  • April New Google+ Community content controls keep out more spam
  • June Google+ now has a process for claiming orphaned Communities
  • June Google+ Web Preview update: Possible for owners & moderators to leave communities
  • July Google+ web preview update: Recently visited Communities
  • September Google+ Communities update: hold posts for review
  • September Google+ Web Update: Related Community suggestions
  • October Google is now sorting community posts by "relevance" by default, rather than chronologically 
  • November Google+ Communities now have an easy sharing box
  • December Improved Google+ search for Collections and Communities 
  • December Find more content: scroll through Community and Collections recommendations in your home stream on the new Google+ Web experience
Brand Accounts and the separation of YouTube and Google My Business from Google+

Up until this year, if you had a local business listing or a YouTube channel using a business or other name) you automatically had a Google+ Page. The Page *was* the account - delete Google+ and your YouTube channel would be deleted as well. 

However, YouTube and Google My Business have been in the process of separating from Google+ for over a year. As part of that process Brand Accounts (myaccount.google.com/brandaccounts) were introduced. Now you can delete your Google+ Page without affecting your YouTube channel. This change appears to still be in progress.

The separation of Google+ from other Google products

A Google+ Profile is no longer needed for much of anything other than using Google+ and social features in Google Photos and Google Games only require a Google account.

Google+ Gets Mobile

iOS Google+ app

The Google+ iOS app has been lagging behind it's Android counterpart. There have been regular updates throughout 2016 and it will hopefully get parity with Android in 2017.
  • February iOS G+ App update: now use with Pages, access circle streams and more!
  • March G+ iOS update: create polls & communities, reply to YouTube comments and more
  • March G+ iOS app 5.4: filter notifications, inline comments on posts, 2 columns on the iPad and more!
  • May G+ iOS app update 5.5.0: manage circles, swipe between posts, multiple account notifications
  • May Google+ iOS app update 5.6.0 : faster GIFs, easier to share webpages and more
  • June Google+ iOS app update 5.7.0 : record videos, easier photo sharing, inline YT video playback and more
  • July Google+ iOS update 5.8.0
  • August Google+ iOS update 5.9.0: Movie Mode, Collections & Communities on Profiles
  • September Google+ iOS app update 6.0: easier profile modification, faster startup & stream loading
  • October Google+ iOS.app update: Create and edit communities
  • December Google+ iOS "N" (6.3.0): community moderation, photo & video posting
Android Google+ app
The Android Google+ app was also regularly updated this year.
  • January Google+ Android app update: improved search, home stream, and more
  • January Google+ Android update: tap the bottom bar to scroll to the top of you Home Stream, plus bug fixes and more
  • February Android Google+ app 7.2.0:: websites open in Chrome custom tabs, search history and autocomplete, tap on bottom bar to scroll to the top
  • February Android G+ app 7.3.0: faster web page loading on wifi, filter notifications, community moderation mode and more
  • February Android G+ app update: Pre-rendering of web pages on wi-fi
  • March Google+ Android 7.4.0: pin post on profile, better Circle Stream access, and more!
  • March G+ Android app 7.5: retry sending failed posts, bug fixes, improvements
  • April Google+ Android App update: design updates, bug fixes
  • May G+ Android update 7.8.0: quick access to Photos, Hangouts; new posts indicator back at the bottom of the screen
  • May Google+ Android Update 7.9.0
  • June Google+ Android 8.0.0 update: new flagging options and more
  • June Google+ Android app update 8.1.0: speed improvements and bug fixes
  • July Google+ Android app update 8.2 and 8.3: focus on fixing issues
  • August Google+ Android update 8.4 & 8.5: profile photos next to comments in stream
  • November New Google+ Android notifications experience (version 9.1.0)
  • December Google+ update: faster web pages on Android

Top 2016 Google+ Tips

Lots of great tips this year, including some official guides from Google+ for using Communities and Collections.

General
  • Get help with Google+ from @GooglePlus , even when Google+ is down
  • Get training Google+ and other Google Apps G Suite services! (Alex Garcia)
  • Circle Streams in the new Google+ web experience (Luke Wroblewski)
  • Automatically share your HOA or YouTube Live Event to Google+ and Twitter  (me)
  • Manage your Google+, Blogger, and Hangouts images in the Google Album Archive (me)
  • Manage your Blogger blog's Google+ settings for profile, comments and sharing(my blog post)
Collections
Communities
  • Best practices for Google+ Community Owners: the guide (Google+)
  • G+ Community owners and mods: try the Community Meter extension to get stats for your community
Want more Google+ Tips and Updates? Follow my "Get the most out of Google+" Collection!


Updated March 2019 to remove Google+ links

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