By most measures, Google+ has failed to challenge social leaders like Twitter, Facebook and the Facebook-owned Instagram
Just 4% of younger users consider Google+ to be the most important social site, according to recent research from Piper Jaffray. That compares poorly to the 30% of teens who consider Instagram to be leading all networks, the 27% who give Twitter top honors, and the 23% who give it to Facebook.
Late last year, Google claimed 540 million monthly active Google+ users. Yet that figure included members who merely clicked the +1 button on any site around the Web, or commented on a blog or Web site connected to the social network or YouTube.
Facebook, by contrast, now boasts about 1.3 billion monthly active users.
Among brands and business users, Google+ has been received more favorably. The network has been credited with giving marketers access to valuable audience segments not typically found on Facebook.
While Google+ drives the fewest social referrals, it also brings in some of the best visitors, according to recent findings from Shareaholic. Google+ users, on average, find themselves spending more than three minutes diving into things shared by connections in their circles.
In addition, 37.9% of national brands now rely on Google sites, including Google Plus Local and Google Maps, to reach consumers at the local level, according to a recent report by BIA/Kelsey.
“Google has effectively connected local businesses [investment in Google Plus and Maps] to SEO rankings,” Jed Williams, vice president of consulting and a senior analyst at BIA/Kelsey, told Social Media & Marketing Daily in March. “Businesses, therefore, have a real incentive to invest in Google Plus."
Gundotra did not hint at his next move. Despite the challenges he faced with Google+, however, Gundotra's options appear to be wide open. Although it was not meant to be, some analysts thought Gundotra was the right man to replace Steve Ballmer as head of Microsoft.
Regarding Gundotra's departure, Google declined to comment further on Thursday.
Sources tell Re/Code that Google plans to replace Gundotra with David Besbris, presently executive vice president of engineering at Google+.