Yesterday brought the unexpected news that Google’s Vic Gundotra was leaving the company. Gundotra had been one of the key figures behind Google+, so we wondered what his departure might mean for the fate of the service and its integration with everything else under Google’s umbrella. News that Google would promote a new Google+ head from within the existing team had us assuming that things would be business as usual, even in Gundotra’s absence, but a new report claims that Google may instead be reconsidering what role it wants Google+ playing, and could even massively tone down the extent to which Google+ and all the interactions that go with it are forced upon users.
While Google denies the allegations, TechCrunch cites reports from multiple sources claiming that a lot of the social-network aspect of Google+ is about to fade. The idea that Google wants users signed-in to Google accounts whenever they’re interacting with its services would continue, but the use of Google+ to share content and communicate with friends and colleagues may be quite downplayed; it could still be there for users who seek it out, but there’d be a lot less pressure to steer users in that direction. And while Google had been pushing Google+ more and more with the latest versions of its Android apps, that could start going away, as well.
Supposedly, Google’s transitioning a fair number of employees previously tasked with Google+ to work on other projects; the Hangouts crew would switch focus to Android, as might the team that had developed Google+’s photo sharing.
Why give up on Google+ to such an extent? There’s not likely to be any singular reason (even assuming this report is remotely accurate), but Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp has been mentioned as a failure for Google+ so large that there might not be hope of recovery.
Again, Google’s official word is that Gundotra’s departure will have “no impact on our Google+ strategy,” but with multiple sources sounding the alarm like this – well, it sure sounds like something’s afoot.