Google+ Is Shutting Down, And No One Really Cares
Many things happened on this October 8, a day that is a holiday in some places and not in other: Brett Kavanaugh is already getting to work on eroding the protections women have spent decades trying to build, the UN says we have a little more than a decade before climate change starts to destroy human civilization and Facebook launched an internet-connected webcam that will definitely never get hacked.What will probably get lost in the sands of time on this very historic day of nothing is that Google is shutting down its social network service, Google+.
Announced today in a blog post — in and of itself a response to a Wall Street Journal story detailing a security vulnerability that would have allowed hundreds of apps to access the personal account information of Google+ users — Google will "sunset" the service over the next 10 months, officially shutting down for good in August 2019.
"This review crystallized what we've known for a while: that while our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years," writes Google Vice President of Engineering Ben Smith, "it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps."
Emphasizing just how little this really matters to anything at all, Smith mentioned in his post that 90% of all Google+ sessions lasts less than two seconds. I would assume this is mostly people accidentally finding themselves on Google+.
For those curious, Google+ was launched in June 2011 with the sole purpose of trying to change how people share things online. As it still sort of is today, posting something just blasts it to everyone who is friends or follows you. Google+ introduced the concept of Circles: where you could organize your online friends into groups and pick and choose who gets to see what posts.
If you'd like a taste of just the kind of hype that surrounded the launch of Google+, look no further than MG Siegler's breathless preview of the network on TechCrunch. "We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward," Google+ head Vic Gundotra told Siegler. "We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public."
Obviously we know that none of this worked.
Less than two years after it launched, as Google Reader was being shut down, it still vastly eclipsed the amount of people using Google+ based on BuzzFeed data.
Two years later, Google removed the requirement for users to create a Google+ profile. More details emerged. Mashable's Seth Fiegerman confirmed what many already suspected: Google+ was an attempt to fend off Facebook.
"Interviews with more than a dozen Google insiders and analysts in recent months, many speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, paint the Google of 2010-2011 as increasingly fearful of Facebook snatching away users, employees and advertisers," writes Fiegerman. "Google tried to mobilize itself quickly, but approached the task with all the clumsiness of a giant trying to dance with a younger, nimble startup."
This echoed what Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly publicly posted to his Google+ account in 2011. The post is gone, but snippets live on in a Gizmodo post. "Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product," Yegge wrote. "Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo)."
While it's fun to look back in hindsight at the insanely powerful and wealthy company failing miserably in the most public way possible, it's kinda nice that there's just one less thing on the internet. One less platform, one less way for people to access your personal information, one less thing you need to care about.
It's nice to know that we can all just go back to not caring about Google+. This time, for good.
(That said, if you are a diehard user of Google+, please email me. I would love to hear from you!)