Facebook came under global scrutiny over the harvesting of personal data for Cambridge Analytica this March and got Mark Zuckerberg dragged in front of the US Congress. The time where all eyes were on Facebook, Google discovered a skeleton in its own closet: a bug in the API for Google+ had been making it possible for the third-party app developers to access the data not just for users but also of their friends. Soon after it was published, Google announced that it will shut down consumer access to Google+ and will make an effort to improve the privacy protection for all the third-party applications.
But now, Google has announced that it is shutting down Google+ at last because of lack of user and developer adoption, low usage, and engagement. The company revealed how poorly the network is performing along where 90% of the Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds long.
Google+, however, was not always like this. It was introduced in order to take the share of Facebook’s dominance on social media.
The introduction of Google+:
Previously Google made so many efforts to introduce a social networking platform of any kind because of which it came up with Orkut in 2004 and shuttered in 2014. In 2008 it introduced Google Friend Connect which was brought down in 2012, as well as the Google Buzz which ended the next year.
The introduction of Google+ was considered the major attempt and allowed several leaks before the launch in order to build the users interest. There were key features such as Circles, Sparks, and Hangouts. Sadly, none of the features made an impact although the implementation was considered as magical.
Outstanding early growth:
With ten million users, the early growth of looked really promising. After a month of the launch of Google+, the platform reached to 25 million and by October 2011, it reached 40 million. By the end of the year, the user number went to 90 million and appeared as a massive threat to Facebook. The early signs that indicated Google will not be able to control the spam because of the Google+ embrace of non-friends. People complained about it till the late 2017 which made Google+ unusable.
The company announced that social search will be the place where all Google+ posts will appear which showed when users were signed in. But it failed to do so as it would help users to see into the posts shared among friends and followers on other social media platform.
Forcing users to create Google+ account:
When Google observed not many people attracted to the Google+ features, it started forcing them to create an account for signing up for Gmail. This wasn’t a friendly act and repelled users even more.
The critics started to mount as Google failed to play the long game in social and being too ambitious to come up with Google+.
Spam remained an issue:
Because of the integration between Google+ and mission-critical products, the event spam emerged. Around Hangouts, a lot of activity was seen but video was a tough space to get right and all other major companies had already adopted the technology.
By this time Google decided to make Google+ a social layer instead of keeping it as the mainstream. After integrating with Gmail and Google accounts, it offered a way to people to follow brand pages in the Gmail. For unifying Google talk with Google+ Messenger into Hangouts, the company launched a Google+ communicating system for Blogger.
It made its 20 million users to juice up Google+ along with YouTube comments if users wanted to comment on the platform and this didn’t made people happy.
Losing the founder:
In April 2014, it was announced that the founder of Google+, Vic Gundotra will be stepping down. The leaving of the founder of Google+ signaled that a shift was coming and the network’s investment plans seemed bleak.
Also, Hangouts began to work without a Google+ account and got itself an SLA. One another thing that signaled that Google+ is shifting following the founder’s exit was abandoning of its real name policy. Google, however, apologized for its decision and changed it in the hope of bringing users back but it didn’t work.
Google Photos remaining as the standalone product, the company announced its revamp in 2015. The changing allowed users to search photos for person, places and things as well as an update on Google+ auto-awesome feature. Although the feature scaled up to 100 million monthly but it was shut down in August the same year.
For making Google Play Game services more likeable for its users, Google dropped the requirement for users to have an account on the social network. This unbundling continued and users were also dropped from the requirement of having Google+ account to write reviews.
By this time, Google had an idea that it doesn’t make sense for a user’s Google+ profile to be their identity in all the other Google products that they use. And then, one of the most exclusive features of Google Hangouts on Air moved to YouTube Live in 2016.
This was the time when Google+ becomes somewhat unnoticed. Although, Google+ was working but it got filled up by spams and it was accepted by the community moderators that it was becoming impossible to keep up. It was a signal for the Google that all the experiments done with Google+ are coming to a close.
In 2015, Google+ forced the change over to the new design and in January 2017, it no longer allowed users to stick with the old look. To counteract the narrative that it was dead, it highlighted groups that were popular on the Google+.
Getting the Cambridge Analytica moment
Since 2015, a security bug allowed the third-party developers to access Google+ user profile data until it was discovered by Google in March. However, Google kept it a secret and decided not to inform the users about it. This exposed the full names, email addresses, birth dates, and profile photos, place of living, occupation, and relations etc. of almost 496,951 users.
Now Google is still stating that it is not sure if the data has been misused but has decided to bring an end to the Google+ itself. The data misuse scandals have brought a really bad impact on the reputations of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. However, Google+ didn’t get impacted in the same way. It was brought to an end because Google no longer claimed it as a social network and the lack of use made the network look abandoned.
The company risked the users’ privacy by having tons of data with them. The shutdown of Google+ might be a signal for Google itself to face a similar fate as more social networks are being questioned by Congress. These issues are brought up in lawmakers’ discussions and are questioned for regulations.
Via: Tech Crunch