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Inside the sad, expensive failure of Google+

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It's fun to read articles like this, but as a humble webdev who worked on a couple pioneering social networks I can't really say I agree with any of it.

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For all that success, the Internet giant just couldn't seem to figure out social. A simple Google search reveals the long list of failures and false starts: Orkut, launched days before Facebook in 2004 and quickly overtaken; Reader, a cult favorite RSS feed launched in 2005 and killed in 2013; Wave, its head-scratching communication platform; and, of course, Buzz, that ill-fated social network built on the back of Gmail which imploded fast in early 2010 after a catastrophic privacy issue.


David Besbris, who helped launch the social network with Gundotra, took over as head of Google+ and claimed that Google was committed to "social... for the long haul." Six months after making that statement, he was replaced in the top spot by Bradley Horowitz, a longtime Google executive.

The buried news in the Horowitz announcement: Google had begun referring to its social operations as "Google Photos and Streams." In Horowitz's blog post this week, that name expanded to "Streams, Photos, and Sharing." By rebranding in this way, Google can separate the failure of "Streams" — the feed activity that most associate with a social network — from the more successful features bundled with it.

Google Photos

Google Photos organizes your entire photo collection into a single mobile app.

"I’ve concluded that it’s time for a 'pivot'... or more precisely time to talk more openly about a pivot that’s been underway for some time (and in fact is reflected in the name of the new team)," Horowitz wrote on Monday, announcing the end of requiring a Google+ account to use Google products. "Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired."

Translation: Google+ is shifting from a Facebook clone to more of a Pinterest lookalike to see if it can build momentum. At the same time, Google is investing resources to build more standalone social products like the Photos app, which has generated plenty of positive press.

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