Report: Google to end forced G+ integration
When Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+, suddenly announced his departure from Google today, many were left wondering "why" and what it meant for the future of Google+. He didn't give a reason for leaving, but according to a report from TechCrunch, the likely reason is a major shakeup for Google's social network.
In short, Google seems to be backing away from the original Google+ strategy. The report states that Google+ will no longer be considered a product that competes with Facebook and Twitter, and that Google's mission to force Google+ into every product will end. With this downgrade in importance comes a downgrade in resources. TechCrunch claims that 1000-1200 employees—many of which formed the core of Google+—will be moved to other divisions. Google Hangouts will supposedly be moved to Android, and the Google+ photos team is "likely" to follow. "Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform," the report said. The strange part is that both of these teams create cross-platform products. So if the report is true, there will be a group inside the Android team making iOS and Web apps, which doesn't seem like the best fit.
A Google spokesperson gave Ars the same statement the company gave TechCrunch: “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.” On Gundotra's announcement post, Larry Page wrote "we’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever-increasing number of Google+ fans."
Despite Google's denial, it makes sense for the company to back away from Google+. The social network hasn't gained the massive userbase it would need to rival Facebook, and the aggressive integration strategy has been universally hated by users. As Google gets bigger and bigger, it faces harsher scrutiny, and few things the company has done have been more disliked than Google+. According to the report, Google+'s YouTube takeover was seen as "a rocky move" even inside the company.
It also makes sense for this to be the reason for Gundotra leaving. Google+ was his baby, and when pet projects like this get canceled or don't go well, it's typical for the company and the employee to part ways (See: Forstall, Scott).
It's unclear what the future of Google+ would be, and the report says that Google itself isn't even sure what to do with the rest of the Google+ team members. TechCrunch says that G+ is not officially dead, but with Gundotra gone and the resources being stripped away, the project seems more like the "walking dead." We imagine that internally, it's more like a drastic scaling-down of the social network, which at one point was deemed so important to the company that every employee's yearly bonus was tied to Google's success in social.
If the report proves true, we'll no doubt see the effects of this shortly. As a brand, Google+ is about at toxic as you can get. Any mention of the service getting close to a Google product usually results in instant rage among the denizens of the Internet. So while the identity, photo, and chat services will stick around, we'll start to see the G+ brand downplayed as much as possible. If the Google+ division really is being shut down and parted out to the rest of the company, will you miss it?