Over the last couple years, this TechWatch blog has been home to requiems for a number of products and services that have either died or pretty much died, collapsing to the point where they no longer resemble their once-great former selves.
To date, I've written requiems for Blackberry, AOL, and RadioShack, but when I sat down to write one for Google+, I just couldn't do it.
Maybe that's because Google+ isn't actually dead yet: In fact, rumors of its demise are based around Google delinking Google+ accounts from YouTube accounts and announcing that the company will no longer require Google+ accounts to access other Google services.
Since using those other, far more popular, services was often the only reason anyone would want a Google+ account, this move was widely seen as the beginning of the end for Google's ambitious attempt to create a full-fledged mainstream social network to take on Facebook. Google pretty much admitted all this in the blog post from Bradley Horowitz, VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing, that announced the change.
But in the past, I haven't let the fact that the victims aren't quite dead yet stop me from eulogizing them. I know it's hard to believe, but Blackberry, AOL, and RadioShack are all technically still alive in one form or another.
No, the problem lies deeper, in the essential nature and execution of Google+ itself. Basically, even though it had millions and millions of users (mostly because Google required it), very few people liked Google+ very much. And I was not one of that few.
That said, I do have a Google+ account, established shortly after the service debuted, when many tech journalists flocked to what was supposed to be the new best thing. I even still regularly post notices of new TechWatch posts to it.
But I haven't added any new Google+ connections in years, and I can't make head nor tail of what it means when I get an email saying someone has added me to their circles. Is that a one-way relationship like a Twitter follower, or a two-way like a Facebook friend or Linked In connection?
And other people I talk to share my confusion. In fact, there's much about Google+ that makes no sense. I think I have some 552 "followers" or "friends" or "connections" in my Circles Google+, but to be honest I can't really tell.
That's because compared to its competitors, Google+'s Circles architecture always seemed needlessly confusing, and I have to use this stuff to make a living. I can only imagine what it's like for someone who's doing it for fun. To be fair, that's no doubt partly because I almost never go to my Google+ profile page. (I virtually always add content using tools on the sites where that content lives, not directly in Google+.)
But that's because the Google+ interface is so ugly and poorly laid out that I quickly lose patience and give up and move on. I'm not always a fan of Google's UI, but Google+ lowers the bar significantly. Heck, if Gmail was a mess like this I'd still be using Outlook.
Fortunately, there's little urgency because almost all the people I seem to be connected with on Google+ are already linked to me via one or more other social networks. I don't know anyone who relies on Google+ as their primary social network. (If you do, I'd love to hear from you as to why, and how well it works for you.)
So while it's sad to see anything fail, I'm not shedding many tears for Google+. I'll keep using many of the services Google+ connects to, including YouTube and Google Hangouts (not my favorite but pretty useful at times). Actively maintaining social presences on multiple networks is a pain, and I'm ready to give myself a break and stop posting to Google+ at all.
Am I missing something here? Does Google+ have some special awesomeness that I (and most other people) simply don't see? I'd love to be convinced.