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2019 Year in Review: Goodbye Google+


One of the biggest changes in 2019 was the sunsetting of consumer (and public) Google+. Born in 2011, Google+ didn't even make it to its 8th birthday. A shadow of Google+ will live on in a much-changed form, as Currents for business users.

Google+ was shut down for consumer users on April 2, due to low usage and "challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations". This not only affected avid Plussers, like me, but many other users who had stopped using the platform but wanted to save their Google+ content, Bloggers using a Google+ Comments for their blog, and folks who never actively used Google+, but were affected by changes to Google Contacts, the YouTube mobile app or other Google products.
Originally slated to be shuttered in August, Google announced in December 2018 that they would be accelerating the shutdown process after finding a bug in the Google+ API that inadvertently gave developers access to private profile information. This bug was apparently introduced when changes were made after the original shutdown announcement in October.

Going into 2019, instead of eight months to migrate away from Google+, we had - at most - three months.

Many features were disabled before the April 2nd shutdown. Blogger removed Google+ comments in early February, and  the Google+ API, used for integrations with web and mobile apps, and features like Google+ web badges, shut down in the first week of March.  That gave Plussers little time to back up and find a new home for their content.

The shutdown of consumer Google+ cast a surprisingly long shadow across the Googleverse. Despite transitioning to a (mostly) stand-alone interest based social network starting in 2015, a number of Google products still had Google+ integrations:
Many folks who didn't even realize they had a Google+ Profile were taken by surprise.

The Loss for Creators

As an active Google+ user, the shutdown was a sad occasion for me. I still haven't found an internet home that has the same community and comparable features. And I feel like Google+ should have been, maybe could have been, more popular.

I found Google+ posts to hit a sweet spot between Twitter's 280 character limit and a full-fledged blog post. I used Collections as subscribable post "channels" and Circles to limit the audience of some posts and to control the content in my Stream. Communities were notably improved over the past few years.

The Google+ Create program was designed to reward and support creators who posted quality content. The Create Community Managers did their best to inspire and encourage posting of new public content. I know they worked hard at it.

But the interest-based Google+ social media platform never really caught on. Maybe it was because folks were already invested in other social media platforms, or because the old aggressive push for everyone to have a Google+ Profile left potential users with a bad taste in their mouths. Maybe a Partner Program or allowing businesses to promote their content would have helped.

And it may be that there just aren't that many people interested in creating and posting public content.

From Google+ to Currents

Technically Google+ isn't gone. It became a core G Suite service in 2016, and a number of the new features in the past couple of years were aimed at business users.  And part of the announcement of the shutdown of consumer Google+ was that there would be increased investment in Google+ for enterprise customers.

That means that anyone with a business or school G Suite account can, in fact, still sign in to Google+. There just isn't much to see. All content posted by consumer users has been deleted, there are no public posts, and it's no longer possible to create or post to Circles, or create or follow Collections. Communities still exist, but only users with a G Suite account can join.

For businesses and organizations that do use Google+ as an internal communication and collaboration platform, Google is developing Currents, with new enterprise-grade features.

Currents is currently in beta, with a number of new features in beta or under development:
  • Advanced search
  • Starring posts
  • Advanced tagging
  • Custom streams
  • Recommended Spotlight posts
  • Post analytics
  • Removing the profile creation requirement
  • Content administrator management tools
  • Preserving posts of former employees
  • Integration with Google Vault
Many of these features have been in at least the planning stages since 2018, likely long before the sunsetting of consumer Google+ was even announced.  

2020 should see some updates and give a sense whether the new new Google+ is what business users are looking for.

Comments

  1. Google Plus took us out of our filter bubbles and drew together disparate and unlikely people. Now I am back in my filter bubbles, and missing those lively conversations.
    I have a very few people, like you from G+, in Feedly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so true! I think the push for everyone with a Google account to have a Google+ Profile brought together a diverse crowd. Although that aggressive push may have also been part of its downfall.

      I feel like maybe the heyday of the social network has passed, and conversations have shifted to more private communities and personal sites.

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