Earlier today, Vic Gundotra left Google. Gundotra’s primary responsibility within the company was their (in)famous social network, Google+. Now that he’s leaving the company, many are wondering what’s going to happen to G+ in the coming months, and while no one has a crystal clear answer, sources are confirming that the social network is going to see some drastic changes and cutbacks.
The biggest change is that Google will stop considering G+ as a product, but instead as a platform. This means Google won’t be trying to compete with networks like Twitter, but will instead use the social network as a launching point for other products. A Google spokesperson denied those claims, but according to some other sources, Google is shuffling around teams away from Google+, so that denial may not hold much water.
The social networking team consisted of roughly 1,000 employees within Google. In the coming months, the Hangouts team that was previously under the Google+ umbrella will be joining the Android team instead, and there’s some speculation that the Photos team will follow. On one hand, that’s really fantastic news for Android users as a whole, as you’ll likely see major improvements in apps like Hangouts and the Google Camera app, but it also means that the talented teams are going to be distanced from Google+, for better or worse. There’s no real indication where the other teams will go if they aren’t going to join the Android team, but it’s pretty likely they’ll end up in mobile roles somewhere within Google, following Facebook’s product strategy. As a result of these changes, expect the teams within Google to build “widgets” that leverage Google+, instead of things being the other way around.
The forced Google+ integration is also getting the ax, for the most part. Google plans on keeping it alive in a few products, like Gmail, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some reversal in policies regarding mandatory G+ log-ins for YouTube and similar sites. Google caught a ton of backlash when they made G+ accounts mandatory on YouTube, and it’s pretty clear they felt the heat from that decision. You’ll still likely be able to use your Google account to keep things synced up like you can now, but there will be less Google+ bleeding over into other products.
David Besbris will be the man filling Vic Gundotra’s shoes, although there are rumors that pieces of Google+ are actually going to be managed by the person responsible for Chrome. No word on if that means Sundar Pichai, who is over both Chrome and Android, but of course, Google denies that, too.
Regardless of exactly how things play out, it looks like G+ will be put on the backburner for a while, if not permanently. I wouldn’t worry about the social network closing down entirely (although after Google Buzz and Google Reader, you never know) but don’t expect it to be as aggressive and in-your-face as it has been for the past few years. On the bright side, I bet you can expect to see Android applications grow exponentially over the next few months and years.