A few weeks after announcing that it would be shutting down Google Inbox, the search engine giant finally decided to put Google+ to rest. The platform had originally been created as a potential social media competitor for Facebook. The announcement came following a massive data breach that occurred on the platform earlier this year.
Data breach affects thousands of users
The major cause of Google+ demise is a result of this year’s data breach. More than 500,000 accounts had their personal/private information distributed illegally without their consent by a number of developers. The security breach occurred in March of 2018, whose timing coincided with Facebook’s notorious Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the subsequent launch of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). The most nefarious aspect of the scandal is Google’s failure to disclose the news for many months, which left many of the affected profiles especially vulnerable.
While Google has maintained that none of the data was mismanaged, GDPR is keen to reiterate that the breach was not made public for a significant amount of time. There may some tumultuous times ahead for the search-engine giant, as impending investigations in the United States and Europe are likely to follow.
Impact on existing user base
While it may not have been as successful as its competitors, Google+ had built up a dedicated following since its launch in 2011. Its clean interface photo-friendly features have enticed many members since its inception. Numerous attempts have been made over the years to increase their user base, such as making Google+ a tool to access more popular Google services such as YouTube and Gmail, a feature that was later removed. Ove time, Google+ has evolved into a niche-based social media platform, becoming an uncrowded alternative with a passionate user community.
While the vast majority of online users are not particularly bothered with the shutdown of Google+, their small, passionate, niche communities will now be on the lookout for another alternative social media platform where they can reinvigorate that sense of an online community.
While Google+ may not be the first major social network to fail or shutdown, it is likely to have a major impact in an era wherein 77% of the US population has a social media profile. Friendster and MySpace also fell prey to similar issues, but their failures both occurred at a time when social media was not as widespread as it is today. Friendster shut down in 2015 after a brief attempt to appeal to gaming communities. MySpace did stick around, but it now exists primarily as a music-based site.
Possibly the more significant example in recent years was the shutdown of Vine, the Twitter owned network with 6-second videos, who made its demise official in 2016. This was a shock to many a user, who have since migrated to Facebook and YouTube to continue their vine-based communities.
Although Google might have failed in its attempts to challenge Facebook, its following is hardly minor. Its difficult to pinpoint an exact number or give a proper estimate since Google counts people using the network’s social capabilities across all Google products. A non-affiliate researcher estimated that the site has approximately 111 million active profiles. Google has also refused to share any of its user statistics, either past or present, with any tech media in the past week. However, earlier this week the company mentioned that around 90% of Google+ sessions lasted under five seconds.
How to protect your Google+ data
In anticipation of the upcoming shutdown in 10 months, Google has created a process that will permit users to save and transfer their Google data. To aid users in the process, Google has launched a service called Takeout that allows you to efficiently export data from your account. You simply have to log in to your Google account and start downloading your data. You can choose which datasets you wish to download, including but not exclusively Google+, Hangouts, and +1s. After selecting the data, you choose the file type and creative an archive. This ensures your data will not be permanently deleted once the site shuts down.
Having started with such promise to become another social media giant, it seems as if Google+ seems both inevitable and premature. It will likely be a while before Google seeks to create another social media platform, and the tech company will likely focus their efforts on upcoming initiatives such as Google Project Stream and AI development. Google+ is just another Google project that did not take off as expected and joins a long line of Google services that the company took down.