Has Facebook won the battle for social networking? Recent changes within Google Plus may indicate a change of strategy in Google’s attempt at a social network.
Recently, Vic Gundotra announced that he would be leaving Google after 8 years. Being the main force behind Google Plus, questions are naturally being asked about the service. Many of the features that were once exclusive to Google Plus such as Hangouts and Photos are being moved under the Android division.
Any admission that Google Plus is not a central product in the Google universe would result in significant bad publicity for the company, and a raft of questions from observers as to what else Google may considering cancelling.
It is extremely hard to judge the success of Google Plus. It claims as many users as Facebook but many of these come simply via other Google properties such as “Gmail” and “YouTube” while not actually ‘using’ the service. Major users of Google Plus report that the quality of discussions and content inside Google Plus is much greater than Facebook and that the engagement with others is also much higher. However, that doesn’t by any means guarantee success.
Given the way that Google Plus has been integrated as an identity management solution to tie various Google properties together, it seems unlikely that this would see major changes. However, other features of Google Plus like “Communities” and “Events” may fall by the wayside. Thus, the thinking is that Google Plus will become less about social and more about identity.
Regular Google Plus users are very positive on the social aspects of the service but that may not be enough to save it in the long run. However, no one really knows what will happen down the track. Google has a track record of cutting products that aren’t performing or producing results. All we can do is wait and see what Google’s plans are and whether it considers the battle for social lost.