Google+ isn’t a social network, it’s actually a social layer. And it may soon become several different layers as the company is thinking about dividing it up into a number of more or less standalone platforms, according to a report in Forbes, citing Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice-president of products.
Pichai didn’t come out and say “we’re dismembering Google+,” but then Google execs’ gnomic statements about Google+ have always required a fair amount of parsing. Rather, what Pichai did say was “I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area.”
Using my powers of oracular interpretation, this means Photos and Hangouts, the multi-person video chat element, might operate independently from Stream, which most people think of as the main Google+ page, and which is also the least successful part of the whole layer. But remember that they’re all important, so none of them is going to go away; except maybe Stream will go away later (in my humble op-ed-inion).
In other areas of the business, Pichai also tells Forbes Google will start showing app ads alongside search results on the Google Play store, creating yet another source of revenue.
Returning to Google+, the tea leaves have shown signs trouble for some time. In April of last year, Google social chief Vic Gundotra left the company, and in September Google stopped requiring new users to create Google+ accounts, suggesting the search giant’s commitment to its social layer was wavering.In December, a post by former Google developer Chris Messina offered a fairly scathing criticism of Google+, which he believes was originally intended to serve as a universal “backbone” for the Web, not just offering an alternative to Facebook’s “social graph” but also creating a “locus of control and access” for all your personal data. But Messina says they whiffed, concluding, “by launching a conventional social network, Google missed the pivotal opportunity to establish a data-positive paradigm for sharing, individual control, and personalization that set itself apart from Facebook. Ultimately it offered too little, too late.”