Some major restructuring is going on at Google+, and it looks like it’s the end of the social network as we know it—if that label was ever appropriate in the first place. Long-time Google VP Bradley Horowitz has announced that he’s taking the management reins from David Besbris and splitting Google+ into separate services called Photos and Streams at the same time.
For the moment, details on exactly what that means are thin on the ground. Photos is fairly obviously the image taking, editing and sharing elements of Google+, but Streams is something new: It’s apparently the river of Google+ posts that’s going to be left when everything else has been stripped out. (Hangouts will live on as a standalone messaging/video-conferencing service, although Horowitz won’t be managing it.)
See also: Great Photos Won’t Save Google+
“It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users,” Horowitz wrote in his post, which gives you some indication of how Google will spin this when it finally gets around to making an official announcement.
Google+ Falls Apart
In an interview with Forbes last week, Google’s senior VP of products Sundar Pichai hinted that Google+ was about to be dismantled into separate parts. It’s a theme he returned to on stage at Mobile World Congress today, telling Bloomberg’s Brad Stone:
For us, Google+ was always two things, one was a stream and a social layer. The stream has a passionate community of users, but the second goal was even larger for us. We’re at a point where things like photos and communications are very important, [and] we’re reorganizing around that.
While adding that Hangouts would remain a Google product, Pichai didn’t elaborate on how Google+ is going to evolve into Streams, or when it would happen. If the “social layer” is decoupled from the posting, +1-ing and commenting aspects of Google+, as Pichai suggests, then the network is likely to become more insular, not less. It’s possible that Google is looking for a more instant, real-time, Twitter-style network that can help augment its search results.
Even the dominant player Facebook has been busy diverging into smaller, more focused areas through the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. The plethora of experimental apps released separately by Facebook—Messenger, Home, Rooms and Groups—are an indication that the future of social networking lies in smaller apps rather than one all-encompassing platform. It seems like Google has gotten this message as well.
Photo by David Nield for ReadWrite