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Google shuts failed social network Google+

Google+, the search giant’s failed social network, will finally be laid to rest on Tuesday morning.

Launched in 2011 and competing with Facebook and Twitter, it was Google’s fourth attempt at a social network.

But the platform failed to win people over, even after Google pushed it upon the thriving YouTube community.

By the end of 2011, analysts were already writing obituaries. But Google decided to close the site only after discovering a data breach, in 2018.

What was Google+?

Google+ was launched as an invite-only platform in June 2011, before opening up to the public later in the year.

It had many of the features typical of social networks, with the ability to post photos and status updates on individual feeds.

However, Google also described it as a “social layer” designed to work across all its services.

Its key features included the ability to sort friends into “Circles” and make group video calls with “Hangouts”.

Google boasted that millions of people had signed up within weeks of the launch.

The problem was few people were using it.

“I click on my newsfeed and see tumbleweed blowing through the barren, blank page,” wrote Paul Tassi, for Forbes, within weeks of the platform’s launch.

“It’s a vast and empty wasteland, full of people who signed up but never actually stuck around to figure out how things worked.”

What went wrong?

“Google+ was destined to fail from day one,” says Matt Navarra, a social media consultant.

“Issues with an unwieldy and changeable UI [user interface], being the latecomer versus giants like Facebook, a disjointed user experience, and rumours of internal disagreements about how Google+ would be leveraged” all affected the platform, he says.

Google+ operated a strict real-name policy and banned people who used pseudonyms or screen names, often locking them out of other Google services such as Gmail.

Unusually, it also went after brands and businesses that set up profiles, deleting their pages.

It later admitted this had been a mistake and decided businesses could set up Google+ profiles after all.

But those that did sign up to take a look were often confused by what they saw.

Where Facebook had “likes”, and Twitter had “Favourites”, Google+ had the cumbersomely branded “Plus One” button.

“If you liked this post, make sure you’ve Plus-Oned it,” said nobody ever.

What did Google do next?

In a bid to boost engagement, Google “integrated” the social network with services such as Gmail. Then, in 2013, it wrapped its tentacles around YouTube.

Following the merger, anybody who wanted to comment on YouTube videos had to have a Google+ account.

The move attracted fury from prominent video-makers who felt their success was being used to prop up the struggling social network.


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