Is A Google+ Breakup Coming For Photos & Hangouts?
Google SVP Sundar Pichai signals that the company is thinking of the social stream, photos and communication as separate areas.
Could Google Plus become Google Minus?
That’s looking more likely after Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai gave the clearest signal yet that Google might separate Google+ into its component parts: Hangouts, photos and the social stream.
“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,” Pichai said during an in-depth interview with Forbes published today.
Whether that means an official breakup of Google+ is not clear, but Pichai’s answer above came in response to this question: “Should we expect Google+ to remain as one big product?”
Google+ status as one big product has been under some question since last April when the network’s founding father Vic Gundotra left the company, sparking speculation of a Google+ fade out. The company stopped reporting figures for active use of the social stream — it was 300 million in October 2013 — but continued to maintain that Google+ was thriving and that support of the platform was a high priority.
Google+ photos have long been considered one of the best features of the platform, but there hasn’t been much recent improvement to the product. For instance, it’s still difficult to share Google+ photos outside of Google+. Splitting photos off into its own product presumably would give it the space and resources to innovate. “To me, photos is an important area,” Pichai said. “I see that as a specific problem space that’s different from the stream.”
Pichai emphasized that Google+ has been very valuable for Google:
“Google+ has always meant two things for us. There’s the stream in the product that you see. And for us, Google+ was also a way by which Google after many years, we made sure there’s common [login and] identity across our products. The second part was in many ways even more important than the first part. That part has worked really well for us. In terms of the stream itself, based on the stats we see, we have a passionate community of users. We would definitely like to see more scale at what we do. The team is working on a few next generation ideas. But to us these are two different things, and I don’t think we have always done a good job of explaining that.”
So Pichai seems to be saying that Google will be placing more emphasis on Hangouts and photos, while continuing to improve social features. Some evidence: Wednesday, Google+ introduced a redesign for the network on the mobile web.