Google Is Changing Its Social Network
Google is breaking away parts of its social network Google+ into two stand-alone products, ‘Hangouts’ and ‘Photos’. This recent announcement from Google’s VP of Product has fueled rumours that Google+ could soon be retired. Since its launch in September 2011, Google+ has struggled to be as popular as competitor platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Recent figures released by Google confirmed they currently have 344 million active users, Facebook currently has 1.3 billion. Although Google+ may not have achieved growth to rival Facebook, it is still a successful platform with a considerable following and with over 300 million active users Google+ is too large to kill off completely.
What Is Changing?
At present, many Google users do not engage on Google+. Instead users utilise other features of the social network, most notably Hangouts and Photos, these popular features are set to become applications independent of Google+ and what is left of the social network platform will be referred to as ‘Streams’.
I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area. – Sundar Pichai – Senior VP of Product, Google
Hangouts is a free messaging service that covers all methods of communications for users:
- Instant messaging
- Text messaging
- Internet phone calls
- Video messaging
- Group chats
The key features of Hangouts combined with its availability across Android devices and Gmail means that it can compete directly with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage. Hangouts will live on as a stand-alone application.
Google Photos is a successful feature of the social network platform. It is a photo storage and sharing platform that allows smartphone users to automatically back up videos and photos directly to Google Drive. Photos are automatically organised based on their appearance alone, for example ‘beach’ or ‘snow’ will categorise images without the need to tag. Other features include:
- Automatically arrange photos and videos in a timeline
- Upload locations can be included in story timeline
- Edit photos with special effects
- Share with friends
Google are to break Google Photos away from Google+. This popular feature will also live on as an independent app.
Google ‘Streams’ is what will remain from Google+. It has not been clearly defined what ‘Streams’ will consist of. Industry experts predict that Google will return its focus to user engagement by encouraging users to comment and interact on a news feed or ‘Stream’, similar to how users currently behave on Facebook. It is still unclear how this will be achieved, further announcements are expected to be made this year.