Earlier this week, Google’s Vic Gundotra announced that he would be leaving the company after eight years. The first obvious question is: “Where does this leave Google+?”, Gundotra’s baby and primary project for the past several of those years.
What we’re hearing from multiple sources is that Google+ will no longer be considered a product, but a platform — essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
A Google representative has vehemently denied these claims. The “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.”
According to two sources, Google has apparently been reshuffling the teams that used to form the core of Google+, a group numbering between 1,000 and 1,200 employees. There is a new building on campus, so many of those people are getting moved physically as well.
As part of these staff changes, the Google Hangouts team will be moving to the Android team, and it’s likely that the photos team will follow, these people said. Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform, we’re hearing. Google has not yet decided what to do with the teams not going to Android, and that Google+ is not “officially” dead, just going in a different direction.
It’s not clear, according to our sources’ intelligence, where the rest of the employees will go, but the assumption is that Larry Page will send the bulk of them to mobile roles. Thus showing the public a potential acceleration of mobile efforts in general, rather than Google+. The teams will apparently be building “widgets,” which take advantage of Google+ as a platform, rather than a focus on G+ as its own integral product.
One big change for Google+ is that there will no longer be a policy of “required” Google+ integration for Google products, something that has become required for most product updates.
That doesn’t mean that all G+ integration will go away, though. Gmail will continue to have it, but there may be some scaling back that keeps the “sign-on” aspects without the heavy-handed pasting over of G+.
We’ve heard that the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook may have been a factor in the phasing out of Gundotra’s grand experiment. There was a perception that Google had missed the “biggest acquisition in the social space.” Though another source tells us that Google knew what was up with WhatsApp but simply didn’t want to pay out for it.
Google+ is and always has been about turning every Google user into a signed-in Google user, period. If true, these changes dovetail with that focus going forward, with Google+ acting as a backbone rather than a front-end service. That being said, there are a ton of really interesting things going on in Google+ like its efforts in imaging. Having the photos team integrate the technologies backing Google+ photos tightly into the Android camera product, for instance, could be a net win for Android users.
As you will notice, there have been many changes and updates to the way Google products look, interact, and are used in the past few weeks. Expect more of these changes, and just remember, DON’T Panic!