Vic Gundotra, the man who has headed up Google’s answer to social networking, G+, for the past eight years last night announced that he is leaving the company, as he feels that it’s “time for a new journey”. It’s not yet know what his future plans are likely to be, but inevitably, the news has prompted speculation that Google are finally abandoning the idea that the social network may someday surpass Facebook.
Certainly Mr Gundotra’s announcement on Google+ itself didn’t suggest any such thing, merely saying that following the death of this wife’s uncle he had revaluated his life.
“I’m […] forever in debt to the Google+ team. This is a group of people who built social at Google against the scepticism (sic) of so many. The growth of active users is staggering, and speaks to the work of this team. But it doesn’t tell you what kind of people they are. They are invincible dreamers. I love them. And I will miss them dearly,” he said in his announcement.
In the wake of the news, top technology news site TechCrunch published the story “Google+ Is Walking Dead”, which said that many sources suggested that G+ will from now on be considered a platform, rather than a product. This, according to editors Alexia Tsotsis and Matthew Panzarino means that Google+ is “essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter”.
However, this is strongly denied by an unnamed Google representative, who said that the news has no impact on the future of the social media site at all. However, TechCrunch goes on to point out that there has been a lot of internal staff shuffling, many of whom have been relocated from “the core of Google+” and whose numbers total somewhere in the region of 1000-1200 employees.
It’s thought that the Hangouts team will now be moving to become a part of the Android team and it’s likely that the photo team will soon follow. It’s all of this, as well as reported tensions surrounding the integration of other Google products into G+, that has prompted what it is thought to be a gradual “phasing out” of the social network.
A Shake Up is Certain
There’s no evidence to support the rumours, other than the staff reshuffle and reported tensions, although TechCrunch cite insider knowledge. However, the shock departure does seem to suggest that some changes are in the offing. According to Forbes, the news doesn’t mean that it’s dead, or even dying, especially since Larry Page himself “has always been its biggest evangelist and shows little sign of losing interest in it.”
However, Forbes contributor Robert Hof points out that perhaps it’s time for the search giant to stop trying so hard to be the next Facebook, especially since its reported user base relies on the fact that people are signed into other Google products such as Gmail, which it apparently counts as active users.
“This could actually be an ideal time for Google to forge a completely new vision of social networking and communications, rather than keep trying to explain what Google+ isn’t. Indeed, at a time when even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is talking up the virtues of private communications, Google+ could position itself as already well on the way to this new world of more nuanced online communications,” Hof writes.
Reimagining Social Media
A more accurate summation of the sudden departure of Gundotra could be that Google are merely ready to reimagine the site and ensure that it’s truly ready for mobile. Certainly it would seem a waste to wind down something that the company has taken years to build.
From a SEO perspective and for all those that work in digital marketing it would certainly be something of a blow to have a resource that we’ve also been working on taken away. This is especially true in light of the social signals that are so useful to search. It can’t be our imagination that in the past six months or so G+ post results have been appearing more and more often. Nor can it be a coincidence that G+ shares appear to carry more weight than any of its social counterparts.
When it comes down to it, the internet in general loves to claim many things are dead – we’ve heard it so often about SEO that it’s become more than a little boring. Email marketing too has said to have been dropping dead for the past five years minimum and yet its success rate continues to rise. Facebook itself has also been declared dead as a Dodo several times (as has G+, come to think of it) and yet counted record profits for its mobile ads revenue just this week.
So is Google+ finally dying? We’ll have to wait and see, but personally, I think it’s yet another storm in a teacup (possibly because I’ve previously held the opinion that this year is the year for G+ – not changing that one just yet) – what do you think?