When it rains it pours I suppose, and so it goes with Google Plus it seems. In a series of recent changes to the social network unveiled over the last few days it appears that earlier, dire predictions for the service may be nearing. Now if you're like me than you've probably been busy working on the 2015 Great Blog Roll Call and reading more than 7,000 posts over the last few days so you might have missed what's happened.
Let's catch up together.
Automatic Hashtags Discontinued
In April Google stopped using the automatic hashtag option for Google Plus posts. The reasoning behind this is that they were going to be debuting the Collections feature which would, presumably, work far better. I've yet to fully explore the Collections feature so I'm not sure if it's better or not. You can still use hastags if they're something that you really love using, but by and large it's now nothing more than a superfluous feature that won't help in SEO searches or anything else, really.
Google Local has Been Removed
This is a feature that I never used. So I can't say that I'm particularly sad to see it's removal on May 5, 2015.
Circle Sharing Discontinued
On May 9, 2015 it was announced that the service would no longer allow users to share their circles at will. The reasoning for this move was that doing so often resulted in people being circled who neither had anything in common nor wanted to be connected. While that certainly could be an issue it also created a situation where it became more difficult to discover each other on the platform.
Like many of you in my circles I have greatly benefited from people like +Zak Smith sharing their role-playing gamer circles as I have made new connections and been introduced to a lot of people who no longer post on their blogs that I would never have had an opportunity to discover otherwise. So in many ways this discontinuation of this avenue feels like a major set back for connecting with each other and expanding our social circles.
Ripples Flattened Out
Later in May the Google Ripples feature, which allowed you to observe how a post was being shared across the platform in a visually appealing manner was discontinued. This kind of bummed me out as this was another one of those analytical tools which allowed you to see how your posts were impacting the wider community. It wasn't a widely publicized tool, but it was a neat feature nonetheless.
Google+ Notifications Bell Name Change
Sometime during the evening of May 27 or the morning of May 28, 2015 Google changed the name of the Notification icon from Google+ to just Google Notifications. This may indicate that the service is getting ready to be expanded into additional channels - or it could be a further sign that the Google+ social network is steadily being dismantled as was first reported back in April of 2014. Were it just an isolated change to the service it might be easy to dismiss such thoughts as the usual fear mongering that's gone on with the service for the last few years but . . .
Google+ Photos is Now Google Photos
One of the better features of the Google+ platform has been the Google+ Photos and now that's being separated from the social network to stand on its own. On May 28, 2015 it officially left the Google+ umbrella of programs and became its own service. For a lot of people this was a clear indication that the social network was actually being dismantled. So much so that Bradley Horowitz, Google’s head of Streams, Photos and Sharing, felt the need to give an interview where he went out of his way to stress that Google+ was not a dead social platform and that this was just part of Google's strategy to revitalize the network.
"Three and a half years into this journey, we’re looking at what the users are telling us Google Plus is good for, and doubling down on those uses. For instance, one particular use-case on Google Plus is people aligning around common interests. If I’m interested in astronomy and I want to meet other people interested in astronomy, we think we have a good solution — Collections, a new feature that we launched just two weeks ago. It’s the first in a series of pivots. We’re also moving aside the things that either belong as independent products, like photos, or eliminating things that we think aren’t working."
Do you find that very reassuring? Me? Not so much. So I'm looking into other social media platforms. Anyone got any suggestions?