Google has confirmed that its social media arm Google+ is to be put to rest, at least for consumers, with August 2019 slated as the time by which it will be sent to the digital graveyard.
Confirmation that the ailing social media was now in its death rattle stage came in a blog post yesterday. Google admitted that 90% of user sessions on the site last under five seconds, suggesting that most account holders are probably only using it as a route to their YouTube account or a login to a third-party site. The final nail in the coffin for Google+ appears to have been the discovery of a bug that threatened privacy.
The demise of Google+ has been slow and agonising. As early as 2015, it had scaled back its services and even back then, our Technical Director Darren Jamieson was talking of a “long, painful experience”. Somehow, the doomed social media platform has managed to bumble on for another three years before Google’s eventual decision that enough is enough.
When Google made its venture into social media in 2011, excitement levels were high over the digital giant’s alternative to the likes of Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and the then Johnny-come-lately Instagram. Sadly for the Californian company, it was perhaps just a little late to the social media party with the introduction of Google+, which didn’t really offer anything that wasn’t already available.
The signs were almost instantly not good for Google+, with reports that users were only averaging 3.3 minutes on the site in the whole of January 2012, barely six months after its launch. By November 2013, Google was forcing users to set up a Google+ account in order to comment and interact with YouTube videos. Google argued that this move was an attempt to clean up YouTube’s infamous tendency for nasty and vitriolic comments, but many saw it as a desperate attempt for Google to use its popular video streaming site to give its struggling social media outlet a leg-up.
An alternative argument is that given that Google missed the boat with the social media explosion of the late ‘00s, might it have been better off biding its time a little longer? Back in 2011, everyone was pretty settled into the likes of Facebook or Twitter, or had had their heads turned by Instagram. With Facebook in particular now having lost the trust of many users due to issues like fake news and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, would 2018 have been a better time for a major player like Google to enter the fray with a social media alternative?
Perhaps it’s not too late for Google to have a second stab at social media with a completely different product, but you feel that if a new social media site is to thrive now, it will need to be one that wins the trust of its users. People are growing weary of intrusive, bully-boy tactics from social media sites, so if Google is to have any chance, it will need to avoid moves like shoehorning one product to facilitate another (e.g. requiring a Google+ account to comment on YouTube videos), and remember that social media should really be driven and dictated by its users.