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Bradley Horowitz finally admits what most of us know: while Google+ may have been launched with good intentions, the effort to cram an alternative social network down our throats as a central aspect of identity across all Google properties was a bad idea. As he puts it in a blog post,
When we launched Google+, we set out to help people discover, share and connect across Google like they do in real life. While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we’ve needed to rethink.
In particular, Google will be allowing people to (again) use their standard Google account to post comments on Youtube, for example.
Although, candidly, this is something that could have been figured out in foresight, considering the degree of pushback the company was getting at every step of their campaign to googleplusify the world. Now Horowitz says
We’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.
You could have heard that years ago, bro.
Larry Page was still boosting the product and the effort to make Google Plus the central identity across Google a year and a half ago, saying
Q. What’s going on with Google Plus?
A. Mr. Page: I think there’s a lot of things going on with Google Plus. I’m a very excited user of it. You saw some demos showing how it works with Chromecast — that’s one of the things I’ve been excited about. The service has been growing tremendously. People are always like, “Oh, what’s going on?” But for us, we’re superexcited about it because it’s a big service, growing continuously, since we launched it, at a high rate, and we’re making it better and better every day.
Q. Is “social” as important to you now as it was two years ago?
A. Mr. Page: Yes, if anything, probably more important. We have a very excited, dedicated community. People forget we’re able to make our services better by understanding your relationships, making sharing work and understanding identity. These are deep and important things for us as a company. When people ask about Google Plus they think about it as, “I’m going to the stream.” For us, Google Play reviews are part of Google Plus, too. We see all those things growing and being important for us.
When Vic Gundotra was pushed out in April 2014, that might have signaled a change brewing, but his follower David Besbris was still leading the effort in October 2014 when he tried to ward off questions about user numbers:
Besbris: I don’t want to talk about numbers.
Only now, with more of that hindsight that Horowitz alluded to, can we connect the dots: Google+ is headed toward the trash heap of other failed social networks from Google, joining Wave, Orkut, and Dodgeball (a Google acquisition, that led founder Dennis Crowley to leave and start Foursquare).
And I still don’t understand why Google has spent years and millions in the weeds, when they could have built on the incredible opportunity of Gmail to develop deeply social in an incremental way. Maybe there is still time.