Google Plus - The story of Google's high-profile failure

By Staff Writer | 25 Mar 2019 at 10:20hrs
Google+
Google recently announced that it would be retiring its Google+ social media platform, and stated that users who have pages, communities, and media stored in their Google+ profile must download and save their content before April 2019.

Data from consumer accounts will then be deleted on 2 April 2019. It is already no longer possible to create new profiles, pages, communities, and events.

Google had big plans to beat Facebook at its own game with Google+ (also called Google Plus), but along the way it all went wrong.

This is what happened.

High hopes

After the phenomenal success of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook, Google saw an opportunity to develop a competitor with the backing of the world's most popular search engine.

After numerous failed attempts, Google finally decided to commit to a complete and intricate social media platform.

Google+ launched in June 2011, and included innovative features such as Circles, Sparks, and Hangouts.

Circles were essentially the Google+ version of Friends, except they allowed users to group their friends - channelling specific conversations and online content consumption.

Sparks was a content engine that provided users with content relevant to their pre-defined interests, while Hangouts allowed users to "stop by when you're free" and engage in live communications, from text to video.

Some of these features were superior to those that Facebook possessed at the time, and seemingly had the potential to cause Facebook significant worries.

Former Facebook employee Antonio García Martínez has also spoken of how Zuckerberg initiated a complete lockdown of the Facebook office upon the release of Google+.

"It was up to all of us to up our game while the world conducted live tests of Facebook versus Google's version of Facebook and decided which it liked more," said Martínez.

Martínez added that Zuckerberg secured the services of an Ads product manager named Paul Adams, who had been one of the product designers for Google+.

"Now that the product had launched, presumably he was no longer restrained by a non-disclosure agreement with Google, and Facebook was having him walk the leadership through the public aspects of Google Plus," said Martínez.

A Facebook clone

Adams told Mashable that the big issue with Google+ was that it didn't do enough to separate itself from Facebook.

"It's like you have this grungy night club and people are having a good time and you build something next door that's shiny and new, and technically better in some ways, but who wants to leave?" said Adams.

"People didn't need another version of Facebook."

In April 2014, Google+ senior VP Vic Gundotra - the man touting the viability and necessity of a social media platform to former Google CEO Larry Page - announced that he was leaving the Google+ team.

He was replaced by his right-hand-man in launching Google+, David Besbris.

However, just six months later, a new leader was appointed - long-time Google executive Bradley Horowitz.

Under Horowitz, the brand started shifting away from the idea that it was a direct competitor to Facebook, instead trying to carve out its own niche as a content-focused platform.

"Google+ can now focus on doing what it's already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love," said Horowitz, adding that the plan was to retire features that didn't fit this new vision.

Too little, too late

However, Google+ never recovered from its lacklustre beginnings and struggled to carve a niche for itself within the social media landscape.

Having spluttered along to this point, the time had finally come to put to an end Google's high-profile failure.

"From all of us on the Google+ team, thank you for making Google+ such a special place," said Google in its shutdown announcement.

"We are grateful for the talented group of artists, community builders, and thought leaders who made Google+ their home."

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