- Google introduced a new slim Google+ version in mid-November.
- The new version of the failing social network keeps only two features from the previous Google+ platform.
- Winding down Google+ will strengthen Google’s effort to monetize its real social network – YouTube.
Two weeks ago, Google introduced a major update to Google+, its social network that once was thought to compete with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and even Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype. The lack of real coverage in the main technology sites and blogs is the best indicator that Google+ attracts very little interest. A similar change to Facebook or Twitter would have been covered not only by technology sites and blogs but by every mainstream media outlet. However, the Google+ change was a complete dud.
Google+ started in 2011 as a very good idea to combine Google’s multiple online services into one hub that could compete in the evolving market of social media. Back then, social media was starting to occupy a bigger place in our lives than ever before, and every company who wanted to show that it was up-to-date showed the social version of its products. Everyone wanted to become more social and bigger in the social network market, and Google, which had previously failed with Google Buzz and Google Friend Connect and had some success with Orkut in Brazil, wanted to join the social trend. Google had all the ingredients to produce a successful platform, and yet it failed.
Internet users used LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) as their professional social network, Twitter as their news-based social feed and Facebook as their day-to-day personal network. Maintaining a number of social media profiles is exhausting, and users were not ready for an additional Facebook-like network. To try and improve its social network, Google made a few significant changes throughout the year, introducing circles, hangouts, collections, etc. However, in the end, Google+ succeeded in gaining less than a 1% market share of the social media market, as seen in chart 1 below.
This is an amazing figure. Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Google+ since its inception and hired top-notch engineers and social network specialists, and the end result is a complete failure. However, looking again at the table above, Google has a pretty good position in the social media market with YouTube, which holds more than 20% of the market and together with Facebook controls most of the social media traffic. Looking at the chart and seeing YouTube in second place raises the question: why is Google winding down Google+, especially when the tech giant accelerated YouTube monetization with YouTube Red?
The answer is pretty simple – Google in fact is unwinding Google+. After number of failed attempts, Google cannot allow itself to admit it failed again in its social media attempt, so the company has chosen another tactic of quietly and gradually closing down Google+. In the previous update Google pulled Hangouts and Photos out from Google+, leaving it in a slim and less social position. In the most recent update Google is removing most of the functions and social features left on Google+, leaving only two: Communities and Collections. This change will make Google+ more similar to Yahoo! Groups or Tumblr – probably not what Google had in mind a few years ago when it launched the social network.
Slowly shutting down Google+ is the right decision for the tech giant. The company already invests more in YouTube and to increase monetization on the very successful platform. YouTube is by far the most successful video sharing service (compared with Vine, Vimeo, Yahoo! Screen, etc.), and it’s also a prominent component in each social network, including Facebook, Twitter, etc. As Google+ doesn’t really attract any attention from users or media, Google can use it for its benefit and shut it down quietly and transfer its social network efforts to YouTube, as it has done in recent months. The recent Google+ update is a big move to strengthen YouTube, as it will enable the company to focus on its flagship social platform and generate substantial revenues from it by improving monetization on the video platform.