In the summer of 2011, Google launched a new social network service: Google+. After strong initial user growth, the service experienced long periods of lulls with little growth, accompanied by a series of substantial changes to the platform.
The service was, at the time, a response to Facebook’s growth which was capitalizing on personal data to sell advertising. In 2011, Facebook was projected to overtake Google in the display ad market. The social network was supposed to be a way for Google to build a diverse network, and use the personal information given by users, to sell more ads.
After 7 years, Google announced on October 8th they will begin the process of shutting down Google+. But why?
1. Software bug
The main reason Google cites for shutting down the service is a bug that was found in the software, initially reported by the Wall Street Journal. The bug, which exposed half a million users’ data, was discovered in the spring of 2018 but Google decided not to disclose that information to its users. The bug was a glitch in the social network that allowed developers to access user information.
Google was afraid that exposing this would bring harsh scrutiny on an already struggling service. After the story broke, Google claimed they had no evidence that any user information was misused. Regardless, the damage had been done and Google+ was unlikely to bounce back.
2. Low usage and engagement
If you’ve spent any time on Google+ you’ve probably noticed the platform was a ghost town. Google tried several times to revamp the social network with new features, new designs, and changes in management. All of which had very little success.
In their statement, Google said the other primary reason for ending its service was “low usage and engagement” citing that 90% of Google+ user sessions lasted less than 5 seconds. That’s astoundingly low for a company as big as Google.
So what will happen to Google+?
Google is giving users 10 months to transition off the platform – they intend to shut it down by August 2019. They are shutting down the consumer side of the service and shifting to a more corporate approach. It’s probable they will try to focus on an internal corporate social network.
However they approach these changes, one thing is for sure; they’ll have a lot of trust to build before anyone gets serious about using it.