A social network from birth to death: Google+

Released in 2011, Google+ announced that it will close due to the security vulnerability yesterday. With a big design change in 2015, Google+ was never able to keep up with its rivals on the social network. Let's take a look at the change that Google + has undergone from the past to the present.

Released in June 2011, Google+ took its place in the social network era that was popular at that time. However, Google+ is not the company's first social networking startup. Google tried their chance with Orkut, founded in 2004 and shut down in 2014, had launched Friend Connect in 2008. In addition to the company's Friend Connect product, which was shut down in 2012, Google Buzz was also launched in 2010. But Google Buzz didn't last long like the others and closed the following year.

While launching Google + in 2011, the company's claim was that online shares were broken. They created different communication groups called “circles”.

Users were able to edit their posts for specific circles. So it's possible to share with your friends the content you don't want to share with your family or colleagues. Similarly, you could share content with family and friends according to your common interests such as sports or art.

However, creating a group on Google+ was still a process that annoyed users. That's why Google presented the user interface in a way that links can be easily edited. This link editing system was much better than the system that Facebook offered to its users at that time. Also, “sparks”, a feature where you can find content and news according to your interest could easily be found, was introduced.

In addition to these features, they also introduced Google+ Hangouts. At that time, Hangouts enabled you to chat over video with users in a surrounding environment. Hangout with a capacity of up to 10 people was really successful. Compared to many social networks, Google+ has adopted an innovative approach.

This innovative approach began to bear fruit in the first few weeks. Reaching 10 million users in two weeks, Google+ managed to reach 25 million users in a month. The social network, which reached 40 million users in November 2011, reached 90 million at the end of the year. Although these figures only reflect the number of users registered to Google+, Facebook has begun to feel threatened.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, which had 750 million users at the time, said that those who want to compete with Facebook in this area should build social graphics like them. Although there was an increase in the user records of Google + at that time, there was no data on the active use of users.

Google+ forced users to use their “real name”. At this point, the social network, pissed off the users who wanted to use nicknames, and when they started to erase users' accounts made it even worse. Because users not only lost access to the social network, they were also losing their Google accounts. This meant that users would lose access to Google Docs, Calendars and other Google products.

Moreover, Google+ did not attempt to solve such problems in the following years. The CEO of the social network suggested that users who do not use real names should find another social network.

In June 2012, Google forced users with Gmail to create their Google+ account. With this non-user-friendly approach, Gmail users have been forced to use multiple integrations.

In March, Google + was reported to be a long-term failed social networking startup. It was emphasized that the platform should work on their +1 button since its launch. The +1 button provided a serious data collection for users, which could be included in the search, were private, and then could be shared elsewhere.

There has been issues with event spams, where any users could invite you to events and they showed up on their calendars whether they accept it or not and that made using Google + feel like a big mistake.

After 2013, it was obvious that Google + can’t compete with Facebook. The engagement was low and the content distribution was quite complicated and Google+ just couldn’t seem to appeal to the mainstream.

Google stopped categorizing Google+ as a social network and turned it into a “social layer” for its own products.

In addition, YouTube comments had also been added to these changes, and you had to have a Google+ account to write comments on YouTube. With this change, Google which constantly tried to increase their user base which has more than 200 million users, was hoping for more success from all the YouTube users. With this move they gained the hate of YouTube users.

In 2014 Google+ founder Vic Gundotra left Google. Google+ started being recognized as a platform rather than a product. Also they decided to step back in terms of Gmail and YouTube integrations.

One of the biggest changes was that Hangouts stayed free. Google+ and Hangouts were connected and Hangouts was an interesting product. Hangouts started to operate without requiring a Google+ account. With Gundotra leaving Google+, the rule of “using your real name” had been lifted and Google+ hoped that this would some users back, but it was too late for that.

In 2015 Google separated Google+’s photo-sharing feature to become its own product. The company announced its Google Photos revamp. The product took advantage of AI and machine learning capabilities that originated on Google+. This included allowing users to search photos for persons, places and things, as well as an update on Google+’s “auto awesome” feature, which turned into the more robust Google Photos Assistant.

The YouTube integrations have been lifted and while users were happy about this, almost none of them came back to Google+.

After 2016 Google+ really just started to pull back and dropped the requirement to have a Google+ account in order to play Google Play games.

Then they completely dropped the requirement of a Google+ account for Google Play Store. Also they moved Hangouts on Air to YouTube Live.

In 2017 Google+ was really quiet. The site was still there but the communities were filling with spam. Community moderators said they couldn’t keep up. Also Google+ forced the change over to the new design that was introduced in 2015.

The +1 button got a revamp. You weren’t able to see the number of shares after this update. It was said that the reason was to make the button load more quickly. But the real reason was that the share counts were not worth displaying anymore.

In 2018 a security bug that allowed third-party developers to access Google+ user profile data since 2015 and which had been discovered by Google in March but hadn’t been shared has finally been put to word and with this security gap the company decided to shut down Google+. Google says there is no evidence that the data was misused but given its lack of use, the site has been shut down.

Even though Google+ didn’t call themselves a social network anymore, they have achieved to add a scandal to their history like Facebook and Twitter.

While saying farewell to an unsuccessful startup, we want to thanks Google for the important lessons it has taught us.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

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