Having been called out to not tell the world about a security error, Google said that it would eventually rest to Google+, its well-designed, but unpopular social network that tried to try Facebook safely.
The shutdown occurs after Google was forced to confirm that it found and resolved a vulnerability in March that could have revealed personal information to 500,000 Google+ users. Google remained clear about the problem for several months and just got clean after a report Monday from the Wall Street Journal. Google said it decided to disclose the error because it did not meet internal "thresholds" to alert the public.
It's the end of a long and difficult way for Google+ that started with a lot of fanfare when launched in 201
So now, Google+, long described as a ghost town, is bulldozed for not being up to code.
But the story does not have a clean end, at least not yet. The delay of Google+ raises questions that we have not yet had to cope with this scale in modern technology: When a big social network settles down, what's next? Google said that the service will slow down over the next 10 months, ending in August to ensure that people have enough time to transfer information and photos from the network.
Of course, Google+ is not the first social network to fail. It was Friendster and MySpace, but they burned out in an earlier era, before the time-consuming social media age we live in now. Friendster slows down in 2015 after a short pivot in play. MySpace is technically still around, even if it's placed as a music site. Vine, the Twitter-owned network for 6 second video tapes, announced its closure in 2016. The movement was much regretted, and most of the users migrated to Instagram and YouTube.
This is different. Google+ was originally intended to be an alternative to the Facebook host. It failed spectacularly, but it is a major social network of undoubtedly one of the most powerful companies on the planet. This is a social network that announces its death at a time when we are so rooted in social media that can suffocate us. About 77 percent of the American population has a social media profile, according to Statista. We've been on the mechanisms of social media so heavily, it has led to disinformation, division, choice sizes and data abuse.
And then one of those services – even as little as it was – could be welcome to anyone. But it does not matter anymore.
"A slice of your life or how you chose to present it will disappear," says Brian Solis, analyst at Altimeter Group. "There is no real understanding of what it should mean."
Google refused to comment on this story.
The SoundCloud Scare
The biggest scare we might have had in terms of a loved social side cover is Soundcloud. The German site allows musicians, both signed and unsigned, upload their music and share it with a community of fans. It is such a part of the Seitgeist that it has become a meme for people to exert their SoundCloud links to anyone who wants to take them.
Last year, the company closed 40 percent of its employees, followed by reports that SoundCloud only had enough funding to survive for 80 days.
The Internet immediately went into panic. Chance Rapper, an avid user tweeted, "I'm working on SoundCloud."
The service was finally saved by key capital financing, and CEO Alex Ljung pulled aside. (It is not clear what role the Chance Rapper played, even though he did tweet he had a "fruitful conversation" with Ljung.)
Still, the thought of losing SoundCloud fights on the instability of social networking sites.
"The moral in its struggle is clear," wrote the New York Times. "As digital culture is more related to the successes of the platforms where it blossoms, there is always a risk that it will disappear forever."
For most people who forgot Google+ years ago, closure could be anti-climax. We have many other options to feed our social media solution, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. (Although it may be careful to scour through your Google+ profile and see if there are any gems or content that are worth saving.)
But just because Google+ was essentially a stroke, it does not mean it's completely abandoned. It's hard to find accurate user numbers because Google is counting people who use social networking skills across Google products. An outpatient in 2015 estimated 111 million active profiles.
Google refused to share social network numbers, either in peak or today. But earlier this week, the company said that 90 percent of Google+ sessions last less than five seconds.
"Google gave us no reason to use Google+," said Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Securities. "Facebook was good enough to satisfy what we needed in social media."
Yet, like any service, it had its power users. The service is popular with photographers because of its reputable photo features as storage and editing features. Daniel Radcliffe, or Harry Potter himself, is a dedicated user. It is his only verified social media account, although his followers count on the site is unlisted.
Radcliffe has said the reason he likes it so much is actually lack of commitment. "It's something I can do that just does not, like, have comments and things about it," he said in 2016. (Ask to be interviewed for this story, concluded a Radcliffe rep, saying that the actor was keen to focus on his new Broadway player opening next week.)
Then it's Guy Kawasaki, Apple's Evangelist for the Original Macintosh. He has nearly 7 million Google+ followers, compared to 1.46 million on Twitter and 430,000 on Facebook. On the day the search giant announced his closure, he wrote on his side: "What plus?" and added, "I saw great potential in Google+." He even signed a Change.org petition, asking Google not to shut it down.
For people like him – public figures and speakers – the end of a platform is a blow. It's a particularly big hit for people who exploit their cumulative followers among several social media, for things like speeches. Attempting to copy the audience on other platforms is excluded, Kawasaki said.
"It's impossible," he said. "I wake up tomorrow and I tell myself that I will get 7 million new followers on Facebook or Twitter? You show me how to do it without buying them – and I'm not buying a trailer. "
Finally, he said Google+ was not just a priority for a company as big as Google. The alphabet, its parent company, already has its hand in everything from search to e-mail to driver's license. So the social network, which was always widespread, was dispensable.
"I'll miss it," said Kawasaki. "It was a good experiment."
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