You have to feel sorry for the engineers behind Google+. When it was first launched, many people (myself included) felt that Google had finally mastered social media. Here was a robust social platform that copied many popular features from public favourites Facebook and Twitter and added a range of newfangled goodies like Hangouts and Circles that made it more attractive.
And on the surface of things, it all seemed to go well for Google+. The launch was a global news event, and initial growth numbers were amazing (before we found out that most of those figures were utterly farcical). The digital community embraced Google+ wholeheartedly, and because all of our colleagues and peers were active G+ users we felt it would just be a matter of time before our non-digital friends and family would also embrace Google’s social platform.
That didn’t happen, of course. As the hype died down, we soon began to realise that the general public stayed away from Google+ almost entirely. Google kept hinting at usage figures that indicated Google+ should be bigger than Twitter, and some studies claimed it could even outstrip Facebook.
But in our hearts we knew this was all a lie. Most of our friends and family outside the industry were on Facebook and some even on Twitter. But almost none were active on Google+, despite the stellar numbers emerging from Mountain View. Something was amiss.
The fanfare with which Google+ was announced soon died down to a soft murmur of sporadic tweaks and increasingly ridiculous user figures that seemed plucked from thin air. Then the mistakes began to pile up, from the initial error on insisting on real names and, later on, the colossal mistake of forcing all YouTube accounts on to Google+.
After this, things got quiet. Very quiet. We didn’t hear much about Google+, and the platform wasn’t being developed further. The first suspicions that it was destined for an early grave began to emerge.
In 2014 it became increasingly obvious that Google had given up on its social platform. The underlying foundation of user identification and social graph tracking remained in tact, but the sudden departure of Google+ chief Vic Gundotra was surely a sign of the platform’s impending doom.
Since then, the nails continued to be hammered in to Google+’s coffin with alarming frequency: from the relevation of the platform’s disastrous usage numbers to the spinoffs of Photos, Streams and Hangouts in to separate apps, the deletion of Google+ Author snippets from search results, the notable absence of Google+ mentions at official Google events, and the lower priority of the Plus button.
Yet where Google has previously shown remarkably little restraint in killing off some of its failed children (Buzz, Wave, Reader, to name but a few), Google+ has yet to face the official axe. Despite the increasing obviousness of the platform’s imminent demise, Google has refused to pull the plug. It’s still there, a slowly decomposing zombie, a husk of a platform that serves as a continuous reminder of the potential it failed to live up to.
It is a long, drawn-out death that must surely be painful for the engineers that birthed the platform and those that continue to work on it today. When will Google finally show mercy to its decaying offspring and put Google+ out of its misery?
We can only hope it’s sooner rather than later, because the whole thing is becoming rather unseemly, like leaving a dead goldfish floating in its bowl right in your living room. At some stage you’re going to have to flush the damn thing, before the stench becomes truly unbearable.