Google I/O: Does the fate of Google+ hang in the balance?

Google's I/O conference will begin on 25 June in San Francisco and while there's plenty of talk around what to expect. The one thing we haven't heard mention of is the social networking site Google Plus.


Google's I/O conference will begin on 25 June in San Francisco and while there's plenty of talk around what to expect from Chrome integration to Android TV. The one thing we haven't heard mention of is the social network Google Plus.

 

The absence is glaring given that recently Google+ head Vic Gundotra resigned from the company in April 2014, raising speculation that social network was all but dead. TechCrunch had reported at the time of Gundotra's departure saying that Google+ would no longer be considered a product but rather a platform and that Google had "been reshuffling the teams that used to form the core of Google+, a group numbering between 1,000 and 1,200 employees."

 

What the report emphasised then was that Google Hangouts team will be moving to the Android team, followed by the Photos team. At last year's conference the changes to Hangouts and Photos was the big talking point for Google. We had noted at that time, when the changes to the social network were announced, that the revamp was much needed and saw Google bringing in features like multi-stream design, hashtags, Photo-editing features and along with the Hangouts chat addition. The revamp had ensured that the clutter was gone from Google + and it did bring some stunning visual elements such as Ripple effect. But then gimmicky effects aren't always enough to convince people that a social media platform was good enough.

 

Given how much importance Google+ had gotten at the last I/O conference, its absence this year is even more glaring. In fact if you look at the sessions for this year's conference, none of them are around the social media platform. Just compare that to last year's schedule which had sessions ranging from chats with Google+ team to a session on Google+ sign in for iOS developers and more.

 

The critical issue with Google+ has always been engagement. The social network has managed to get users to sign up, but that's pretty much all that they did. Sure if you have a Google account, it's likely that you have a Google Plus page as well, but the truth is there's not a lot of conversation happening there. Then there's the app integration that the company launched at last year's conference, where developers could use the Google+ API to allow sign-ins. Once again, you're still likely to see newer apps sticking to a Facebook or Twitter log-in because the level of engagement on these platforms and therefore the benefits of the network effects for the apps is significantly higher.

 

With very little going for it as a social networking product it makes perfect sense that Google has decided to downplay its relevance at its premier developer conference. Maybe it is time to say that as a social network Google+ is dead.

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