Slackified Google+ coming to G Suite by August 2019

By: (plus.google.com) +David Herron; Date: October 9, 2018

Tags: Google » Social Media Networks » G Suite

On Monday Google announced it was shutting down Google Plus following a review of the Google product line-up. Most of the news coverage is focusing on a bug that probably revealed user data. While that bug surely weighed on the decision, from the official blog post it is clear, irregardless of any bug, Google was going to pivot Google Plus to an Enterprise offering through the G Suite product line.

As of this writing the news coverage of this change is all focusing on a security bug. We are all worried about social media networks leaking personal identity information, because of how that data is being misused in social manipulation campaigns.

For example a large part of the "Russia Hacked the 2016 USA Election" story (as well as Russia hacked BREXIT, and Russia manipulated Montenegro and Russia inspiring hard-line right wingers in elections in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Czech Republic and elsewhere) has to do with manipulative information campaigns through fake social media accounts, fake news blogs, etc. The information targeted machinery is driven in part from data collected by illicit means from social media networks.

Therefore it is reasonable to jump to a conclusion -- Google's blog post spends a few paragraphs detailing a bug found by Google engineers in Google+. This bug potentially exposed personal information to 3rd parties and it is unknown what, if anything, they did with that data.

On Google's (blog.google) blog post announcement the first clue is the title: Project Strobe: Protecting your data, improving our third-party APIs, and sunsetting consumer Google+ If this was announcing Google+ being shut down because of a security bug, the title would be different. Instead this blog post is about introducing Project Strobe and part of this new Project would cause the shutdown of "Consumer Google+".

With all due respect to the large news outlets they've missed the story on this.

The post started with:

At the beginning of this year, we started an effort called Project Strobe—a root-and-branch review of third-party developer access to Google account and Android device data and of our philosophy around apps’ data access. This project looked at the operation of our privacy controls, platforms where users were not engaging with our APIs because of concerns around data privacy, areas where developers may have been granted overly broad access, and other areas in which our policies should be tightened.

Therefore, Project Strobe is about improving user security and tightening access to user data. That's a good thing, and fits with the narrative above. The increasing worry over user data leakage clearly caused Project Strobe to exist.

Next was:

Finding 1: There are significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ product that meets consumers’ expectations.

Action 1: We are shutting down Google+ for consumers.

As was obvious to Google Plus users, and clearly to Google Management, Google Plus has not lived up to the hype it had a few years ago. Supposedly Google Plus would help Google destroy Facebook. Instead Facebook is stronger than ever and Google Plus is an underutilized place that never lived up to its potential.

Reading between the lines of this finding - Google is admitting they completely failed to understand what to do to succeed at the goal of creating a worthy competitor to Facebook, Twitter, etc. It's not explicit, but "significant challenges" is skating around the edge of an admission of inability to implement a worthy social network.

During this discussion Google admits to the bug. It was found during their review of API's.

Finally, we're told:

The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers’ expectations. Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.

To give people a full opportunity to transition, we will implement this wind-down over a 10-month period, slated for completion by the end of next August. Over the coming months, we will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data.

At the same time, we have many enterprise customers who are finding great value in using Google+ within their companies. Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network. Enterprise customers can set common access rules, and use central controls, for their entire organization. We’ve decided to focus on our enterprise efforts and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses. We will share more information in the coming days.

We have to use our read-between-the-lines skills again.

Google Plus as a technology is not to be killed. What is to be killed is the public face we use at plus.google.com.

We have yet to see the announcement but the most likely thing is shutting down the plus.google.com domain name and all public services. This means the Communities on Google Plus will now start scrambling for new homes. It is unlikely there will be a static version of plus.google.com preserved for posterity. It is unlikely there will be a way to transition content out of plus.google.com communities.

There are many very active and very useful plus.google.com communities. It's a shame those will be deleted.

When the announcement says enterprise customers it is referring to (gsuite.google.com) G Suite.

The G Suite offering packages together a pile of Google services set up for a company. Many companies use G Suite to provide a combination of e-mail (GMAIL), Calendaring, Office Documents (Google Docs/Sheets/Presentations/etc), File sharing (Google Drive), and more. Google Plus is already included in G Suite.

The sales pitch for G Suite is:

  • Connect
    • Business email through Gmail
    • Video and voice conferencing
    • Secure team messaging
    • Shared calendars
  • Create
    • Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • Access
    • 30GB cloud storage

I know from owning a few G Suite accounts that many more capabilities are available -- for example G Suite YouTube accounts are available. But those features are what Google positions as the primary selling point.

The "Conferencing" feature is what we know of as Google Hangouts. Hangouts is a very competent chat and video system. It fills a niche similar to Skype.

The "Secure team messaging" feature seems to be where the pivoted Google Plus will sit.

In terms of Enterprise offerings, Slack (and similar systems) are very popular among many businesses. G Suite did not have a direct competitor to Slack et al. Therefore, Google's management probably see's this as a strategic move, to add missing functionality to G Suite.

That's my prediction anyway. Why do I say "August 2019"?

Google says this requires a 10-month transition period. October 2018 plus 10 months is August 2019. Unless there are schedule slips. We should expect some announcements by the time of Google's developer conference in the Spring of 2019.

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