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Year in Review 2017: Google+ Comes Into Its Own

In 2017 Google+ both turned 6, and was born anew. “Classic” Google+ was finally retired and the new Google+ finally started to spread its wings.

In July 2015 Google announced that Google+ would no longer be the social layer across Google products, but rather would be focused on “shared interests”. In November of that year a new stripped down and responsive web interface was launched.  Throughout 2016 there were regular improvements for Google+ on the web. And finally, in January of 2017, Google+ was ready to retire the Classic version of the interface.

Without the need to support two separate interfaces, Google+ could start to introduce new features. And so while some of this year’s updates may have seemed like they were simply restoring features that were available in Classic, Google+ also introduced Discover, which is designed to help you find new people, posts, Collections and Communities based on your interests. And there are a number of new Community moderation tools and other Creator features.

As 2017 draws to a close, it feels like Google+ is still a work in progress. It will be interesting to see what 2018 brings.

Top 2017 Google+ Updates

  • Retirement of Classic Google+
  • Topics and Discover for finding interesting content
  • Advanced Google+ search operators
  • Improvements to the Google+ desktop notifications page
  • The new Profile “About” card 
  • Delete, and report comments, and block the commenter with just a few clicks.
  • Community Member Activity View which lets you easily see all the posts of a Community member 
  • Community moderation tools, including bulk moderation of Community posts and ask-to-join requests, and the ability to "Remove, report and ban" members in one step
  • Improved photo lightbox on the web, including pan and zoom of large images, photo sphere support, and a new design that lets you better see captions and comments
And for the curious, I also took a totally non-scientific survey of what countries Plussers are from.

Read on for more details about this year’s updates.

General Updates

There were a large number of updates in 2017, many were basically adding back features that were available in the Classic interface, or more general housekeeping. But there were some new features too.
  • January Classic Google+ was retired
  • January “Your Influence” - stats for everyone - launched
  • January Google+ Classic Events are now available in the new Google+
  • January Improved responsive web design
  • January Low quality comments are automatically hidden
  • January Pan and zoom large images on the web
  • January Google+ uses machine learning RAISR to provide up to 75% bandwith savings per image served
  • February New Google bell notifications rolled out, without Mr. Jingles (but you can still find him on the Google+ Notifications page)
  • April: You can remove your current Google+ URL, and possibly add a new one
  • June: The Google+ share button on desktop now just reshares to Google+
  • July Photo sphere support in the Google+ web lightbox is back!
  • October The web image lightbox now emphasizes captions and comments 
  • October Google+ adds additional EXIF data to the web lightbox image view
  • November:The Google+ desktop notifications page now lets you open notifications in a new tab and includes hovercards.
  • November: Google+ has a new Profile “About” card on desktop, which nicely formats your personal details, and provides buttons to contact the profile owner directly.
  • December: When a spammer comments on your posts, you can delete, report, and block them with a couple of clicks.

Discover New Content, Find Old Content

To be a success, Google+ really needs better ways to discover new content and people with shared interests. This year they have been working in that direction with the launch of Topics and Discover. You can now find new people, posts, Collections and Communities by searching for topics that interest you.

Some people have expressed dismay that Collections are no longer so prominently featured, but personally I think that was a bit overwhelming to be presented with a wall of random featured Collections. It’s better to help people find content that interests them, whether it’s posted in a Collection or not. 

Google+ has also been improving search functionality, so you can now more easily find older posts.
  • April: Google+ launches Topics in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
  • August: Improved Google+ search and explore on desktop! (Anna Kiyantseva​)
  • August: Google+ launched Discover, a new way to find content and Communities from across Google+. The web navigation menu has been simplified, making it a bit more difficult to find Events and your own Collections.
  • December: New Google+ advanced search operators let you search by date, the type of post, whether it’s in a Community or Collection, and who posted or is mentioned. There isn’t a user-friendly interface.

Google+ finally separate from most other Google services

The disentanglement of Google+ from other Google products and services has been a long, and sometimes painful, process. By the end of 2016, YouTube was largely separate from Google+, leaving Google My Business as the main Google service still deeply entwined with Google+. And now, Google My Business has gone its own way as well, with new post options entirely separate from Google+.
  • January: Support for Google+ Brand Pages was removed from the Google My Business dashboard. You can now find all your Brand Accounts in your Google Account settings.
  • March: Location sharing moved from Google+ to Google Maps
  • May: Retirement of retiring two legacy Google+ features in Gmail: the ability to email Google+ profiles and the use of Google+ Circles
  • June: Google+ announced that they will be making the G+1 button load more quickly on third party sites, mostly by making it a simple sharing button. Notably it will no longer display the +1 count.
  • July: The Google+ G+1 button on 3rd party websites no longer displays +1 count. If you plussed sites in the past, you can download the links and use them as bookmarks. 
  • October: New Google My Business listings can no longer add a Google+ Page
So what’s left? Blogger still lets you use Google+ Comments and supports plus mentions in posts. And those are optional features. As 2017 comes to a close, Google+ stands on its own.

Google+ Communities: Moderation and Management tools

At Google I/O in May 2016, Google Spaces launched as a “tool for small group sharing”. There seemed to be overlap between the folks working on Spaces and Google+, and during the experiment they “learned a lot about how people come together to share ideas and content around any topic.” Spaces shut down in April, with the promise that they would take what they learned and apply it to other Google products. I mention it because Google+ Communities are one such product that could (and maybe has) benefited.

In any case, this year Google+ Community Moderators got a number of new tools to fight spam and abuse, and manage the addition of new members. Most users probably don't know those tools exist, but they help mods work behind the scenes to make their Community a positive place to share and discuss.

And mods don’t have to feel like they are working alone. There is a new public Moderators Community to exchange tips and learn best practices, in addition to the private Community Vanguards program.
  • May: Invite people to a Google+ Community via a link
  • July: Google+ Community moderators can now "Remove, report and ban" members in one step 
  • August: The new Community Member Activity View lets you see all the posts from a member of a particular Community.
  • September: Google+ Community Moderators can now moderate Ask-to-Join requests in bulk
  • October: Community moderators can remove recent content from banned members.
  • December: Community Insights let you see your community’s stats
  • December: Bulk moderation of Community posts

Google+ for G Suite

In September 2016, Google+ became a core G Suite service. In March, Danielle Buckley provided a road map for new Google+ features specifically for G Suite users, and it looks like those goals for 2017 have been met.

My Wish List for 2018 🤞

Here are updates I'd like to see:
  • Improve “Your Influence” profile statistics. Launched almost a year ago, it still has limited information, and the numbers seem glitchy. I want graphs, and post stats.
  • Better tools for promoting Google+ outside of Google+. The Google+ Platform for developers needs updating. For example, I’d love to have Collection badges.
  • Remove - or update - Google+ Events. Events were supposed to be retired along with the Classic interface, but got a last minute reprieve. But Events haven’t been updated to the current web interface, and the option is pretty well hidden. I know there are people who still are regular Events users, and what I’d really like is for Google to launch a new “Google Events” that is better integrated with Calendar and other Google services.
  • Overhaul the Android and iOS apps. The Google+ mobile apps received a number of updates, but neither have feature parity with Google+ on desktop.

Top Google+ Tips and Tutorials

Here are my top Google+ Tutorials this year: