In May of last year, I wrote a strikingly accurate prognostication on the future of Google+, and exactly where it will play in the social space. Last week, Google decided I was right all along, and did just that.
To catch you up, Google recently announced that it was officially splitting Google+ into essentially 3 components:
Photos is an absolutely fantastic product and deserves its own space. All of us here at Collective Bias live and die by Hangouts. It’s our IM, our video conferencing and our screenshare tool. But what does this mean about the future of Google’s social endeavours, or Streams? Here’s what Sundar Pichai, SVP of Google Products had to say:
“For us, Google+ was always two big things: one was building a stream, the second was a social layer, a common layer of identity; how sharing works across our products and services. The stream has a passionate community of users. But the second goal was in some ways an even more important goal for us. We’ve done both, but I think we’re at a stage where use cases like photos and communications are big standalone use cases so we’re going to think of this as a stream first, and then photos and communications as big new areas. So internally we’re organizing ourselves to support that. You’ll see us evolve all these three areas.”
While some would say (again) that this is the end for Google in the social world, I believe Sundar is signaling my point from last year. You’ll notice he doesn’t say that Photos and Hangouts are more important. Google’s social ambition was about building a stream, and also about a social standard for online identity. Google will never beat Facebook at the destination game. But they have a fighting chance for becoming the social fabric that knits all of the web together. That makes them your singular identity for the web – an incredibly powerful place to be.
The streams are insignificant, ultimately, at least as a standalone destination, like a Twitter or Facebook feed. The real story is how Google can become the support structure for connected activities across the web. They will then not only know who you are, but how you move across the web, how and when you make purchasing decisions, how you share, who you share with, and what truly interests you, as a person.
Was Google+ a flop? Maybe. I’m sure Google would’ve loved for it to be the next Facebook. It was never going to be that, though, and I think they knew that. Splitting these features up allows them to double-down on the real purpose for Google+ – identity.