THE BLOG
05/14/2014 05:54 pm ET | Updated Jul 14, 2014

Google+ Is Very Much Alive -- Here's Why

Did you hear the one about Google+ being dead, walking dead, on life support, in a coma, finished, going away, and kaput?

If you didn't catch that by chance, last month TechCrunch was the big catalyst into launching a gazillion stories, stating the almost certain demise of Google+. Yup, they actually wrote, "Google+ is not officially dead, more like walking dead: "When you fire the top dog and take away all resources it is what it is." It will take copious amounts of work for it to un-zombie, if that's even a possibility."


[Photo: XKCD.com]

This HAS to be the case right? Google only spent 4+ years and millions of dollars to just pack it all in now. What else is left for them to do? I mean Vic Gundotra was Google+ and he did it all from the Google I/O keynote speeches to programming every single line of code. Nope, not even close. He was a great champion of the social space, no arguing that, but he worked with over 1,000 people daily. Why would his departure automatically mean they're ready to kill their social investment? You've heard what the TechCrunch "sources" had to say on the subject, what does one Vice President of Engineering think about Google+'s future?

The commitment to Google+ internally is strong, but I'm not one who believes in trying to talk the world into believing that. I plan to just keep innovating and improving hangouts in G+, and let our actions speak for themselves - Chee Chew, Focuses on both Google+ Hangouts and Google Chrome

There is one high level statement from within the Google+ team. How would Google+ actually go away, if that were the case? One theory is that Hangouts could operate independently from Google+, but how likely is that? While you can start them in Gmail and businesses can even use Chromebox For Meetings for video conferencing hangouts, it'd take a lot of time to have engineers remove all the many Google+ requirements that are connected. They even just released a new Hangouts look across both Gmail and G+.

Once upon a time, your Google profile page became your Google Buzz profile page and is now your Google+ profile page. Essentially, your Google+ profile is tied directly to your Gmail address, it is your identity across all of Google and it receives video hangout invites. Also, when you create a hangout on air broadcast, it ties directly to Google+ as well in the form of an event watch page. This appears on your Google+ profile and in the G+ social stream. It is already pretty difficult to imagine the Hangout team somehow restructuring everything not to tie back into Google+. This would not be an overnight process, and in my opinion it'd be taking many steps backwards along with a waste of resources that could be spent improving upon the actual video calling tool instead. From my own Google sources, the company is thinking both medium and long term as it continues to make investments related to Google+ that'll result in more visible agility and features.

Techcrunch went on to say "What we're hearing from multiple sources is that Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform -- essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter." I guess I'm confused by this statement, because Google+ has always been a platform. In fairness, it's been a product, social network and social layer all in one too, as it connects across other Google products. Many Google+ fans would even agree that it suffers from a "what is it exactly" identity problem, I'd take it one step further with saying public perception of Google+ is a motherf*cker!

Another theory is that they'll change the Google+ name, but I highly doubt it after almost three years in existence and having it be a brand that is recognized, even if it is not fully embraced by the masses. Google might change its strategy going forward with Google+, but there is no source that knows that for certain, with the exception of maybe Larry Page. I don't believe it really matters whether it's seen as a product or a platform in relation to it continuing to be around, continuing to breathe on its own, I should say. I'm not sure what date TechCrunch had in mind for G+ Doomsday, hence ending the comparison to Facebook, maybe Google knows?

Today's news has no impact on our Google+ strategy -- we have an incredibly talented team that will continue to build great user experiences across Google+, Hangouts and Photos. - Google's official statement

Why would Google publicly say that's it's going to keep developing for a basically dead website walking? Should we just chalk that up to of course they're going to say that, despite this story telling us that its only named source "vehemently denied" Techcrunch's claims? I guess it makes perfect sense for them to want to have to backtrack further down the line and say, "oh I guess we changed our minds about what we told you in April 2014" ?

Google has also purchased a good number of small startups that may have helped contribute features to Google+, such as Fridge, Katango, the social movie recommendation service fflick, social ranking PostRank, Wildfire Interactive and others. Most companies buy other companies and integrate them into their own social space that they aren't fully committed to. My Google sources also say that they continue to make investments related to Google+. Feasibly the most telling of all the statements that have been made by actual Google employees was G+'s chief architect as he passionately stood by its side.

Let me simply say that this entire TechCrunch article is bollocks! It was a solid mass of crap. You can ignore it completely. Google+ isn't going anywhere, I can promise you. - Yonatan Zunger, Google+ chief architect

While there is that slight chance that somehow Zunger isn't informed of what the fate of his baby might be, it's highly unlikely he'd make such a bold proclamation knowing it would soon disappear. I completely agree that it will stay and continue on its path as new features have appeared as recently as the last couple of days.

Google has already started and scrapped social before with the failures of Orkut, Google Buzz and Google Wave. They are all-in with Google+ and need to continue to collect social data to provide more relevant, non-intrusive ads. Vic Gundotra brought them the closest to success in social than ever before.

#AndThen Vic Gundotra recently departed Google and his baby, Google+ after almost 8 years at the company with around 4 dedicated to Google+. People have widely speculated on the why it happened and tried to define what it must mean. Regardless of the actual reason, publications took it upon themselves to examine the "forcing" of G+ into other Google products like Gmail and Youtube as some major problem, even citing it as the reason Vic is no longer a Googler. The truly bizarre aspect of that is both Vic and his number 2 guy, Bradley Horowitz have said from the very beginning that "Google+ is a social layer", "Google+ is Google" and we would see how they would all glue together to deliver one unified experience across all of Google. It makes perfect sense to me and besides people having to get used to changes (See: Facebook's new look or Twitter's new profiles), why would you want to have to sign in and out of every Google product with different identities?

If Google had bought Facebook and that was the glue instead of Google+, would it still be an issue? Nobody forced anyone to use Google+ or Gmail or even Google search for that matter, Bing and Yahoo do still exist. We use them because they are superior. The biggest argument most people make about Google+ being inactive is that they haven't taken any time to circle anyone, because they just want to connect to their friends. Everyone uses social sites differently and while Facebook might be about your "friends" such as that person you never cared for back in high school, life is about networking and Google+ represents a huge opportunity to do just that. How else would I have directly interacted multiple times through Google+ itself and Hangouts with not only Vic, but his successor? Vic recently expressed complete faith in the new head of G+, Dave Besbris.

You have no idea how great Dave Besbris is. I love him like a brother. And he will carry Google+ to new heights. He built Google+. Yes he was there from day 1. So trust me, this man knows what he is doing. - Vic Gundotra, former Senior Vice President, Social for Google

Vic has already accomplished a great deal, is well respected in Silicon Valley and one rumor has him starting a micro VC firm. Some might think his statement just proves he's a classy guy, but there are major brands invested in Google+ from their business pages to their communities, spending their own resources to be engaging there. I can't imagine a way in which Google is going to take away the chance for other companies, celebrities, and everyday Plussers to broadcast Google+ posts to their respective audiences as some have not just millions of followers, but millions of content views, some even billions!

All the content that has been created and continues to be created through the platform, as Google+ currently is still online, will not just cease to exist. If someone clicks through to these profiles through a post they found on Google.com, does Google want all these profile pages to not stay current?

It does sound ridiculous and again only makes me think that besides design changes, maybe we see Google alter the Google+ name & brand. I would vehemently disagree with that actually happening as the G+ logo is tied to way more websites than you realize. As Mark Traphagen, an online marketing consultant, notes about Google+ data: "The primary revenue-centered use is for targeting advertising. The more Google knows about your personal information, your preferences, your online behaviors, your location, etc., the more accurately they can serve up ads targeted to you, specifically. And that's where Google has a distinct advantage over Facebook and Twitter: the Google Ad Network. Not only can Google show hyper-targeted ads in Google properties like Search and YouTube, but Google also owns and runs the largest online advertising network in the world, with millions of sites displaying Google AdSense ads. Facebook is beginning to build its own ad network, but it is starting from way behind."

The idea that people come across even a story on HuffPost that shows 500 +1s with a G+ logo on it that is now somehow out of date and not tied to what Google is doing with social also sounds pretty bad. It is perfectly reasonable to me that Google and those that work on Google+ are telling us the truth. Why would Google want more bad press on their shortcomings with social?

Regardless of whether you think it's a product or platform, as long as it still exists, which it does, it remains in the social race. Google+ is alive and is reported to have hundreds of millions of users, even though a certain percentage are counted from other Google products. On a daily basis, I receive more interaction from people on my Google+ posts than on my Facebook or Twitter posts and I've been active way longer on those older two sites. The Huffington Post receives daily interaction on its Google+ posts that rivals the interaction it receives from its Facebook status updates.

It's hard for anyone to argue that there isn't a huge amount of value when there is an audience present. People and for the most part brands didn't simply show up on Facebook and Twitter causing activity to spontaneously happen on day 1 without putting in any effort. They followed and friended others, filled out their profiles and made posts. Yes, it's true that you might not use it or see the point of it, just yet. You might have bought into this idea that it's annoying and "not the place to post your vacation status" based on many journalists that have written just that which is a popular story idea.

In one New York Times piece, Claire Cain Miller brings up the infamous goto headline, "Google+ is a Ghost Town" and even HuffPost Tech has brought up the silly "Stop trying to make Google+ happen" line. You might also have bought into the idea that MySpace was always going to be more popular than Facebook too, many did during the heyday of Tom Anderson's creation. It's a lot sexier overall to say that Google+ and Google just can't cut it, than Google+ is succeeding, useful, and even awesome. A majority of journalists writing these types of pieces are not even active on the platform with some barely having any information on their profiles, which lends even less credibility to their thoughts when it comes to the vitality of Google+.

In my opinion, it is a success, because it has made Youtube comments more of a discussion eliminating many trolls, enabled people to connect with up to 15 others in a video hangout all around the world from business use to classrooms and unified your entire google experience with one identity.

Whether you believed them or not, Google+ was created as a social layer across Google and not focused on being some kind of "Facebook Killer". I would agree that they'd love to be more of a competitor overall, but I feel that wasn't their main goal.

Google wants to make your experience across all its products better using your data and that also means delivering you more relevant, non-intrusive ads. Search Plus Your World is a way to have more control about how you as a person is represented across Google Search and that is powered by Google+ posts, photos and profiles. You don't necessarily have to be active on plus.google.com to be using Google+ as it IS Google, you're already using it even if you haven't upgraded to G+ since it is integrated throughout the Googleverse. Just like people are using Facebook and commenting across the web via Facebook Sign-In, the same exists through Google+. When you are commenting back and forth with someone on a Google Doc, you're using Google+. When your friends' photos appear in search results or you can see a face and name clearly of whom wrote a news article, you're using Google+. It is more than just a social stream, but even that ties directly into search, showing specific G+ posts in results.

I do think they could have had a better overall strategy in how they introduced the very much living layer back when it was invite-only, kept it simple enough for most people to quickly grasp and gradually work in changes that would impact the largest video site in the world. I expect to see a lot of cool features, apps and hopefully a better overall plan moving forward. "This is the craziest case of media-induced paranoia. Seriously, you know what's coming? More cool launches. Lots of 'em. Can't tell you what. Exactly the same as the answer I would have given you a month ago, or a year ago.", adds Yonatan Zunger, referring to some of the media's obsession with issuing Google+ a premature death sentence.

Many studies have come out showing Google+ as #3 and some say even #2 behind Facebook, that alone says to me that there is absolutely no reason why Google wouldn't keep building for it and improving upon it. Here are some graphics showing the growth of Google+ and even if overall percentages of active users aren't as high as Facebook, this is still a substantial amount of people after only about three years. Also, the amount of mobile users are highly encouraging and it would lead me to believe that they will invest in more standalone mobile apps attached to the G+ infrastructure.

state of google plus

mobile google plus chart

[Photos: Wearesocial.net]

What does the co-creator of Google have to say on the subject?

In the meantime we'll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans. -Larry Page, CEO/Found of Google

When it comes to Google+, I feel like Albert Brooks at times in the movie, "Defending Your Life", actually scratch that more like Rip Torn as his lawyer, Albert as Google+, while his "prosecutor" represents all the naysayers out there and Meryl Streep, is still Meryl Streep. This scene does come to mind as my defense rests and Google+ thrives on in whatever form it ultimately winds up as. I can't tell you about the new features in store, but I definitely will tell you that this video is a SPOILER ALERT for my favorite movie about "BIG BRAINS"!

Google will keep rocking Google+ and Plussers will continue to spread the #pluslove !