Less than four years after its launch, Google+ as a social network is being split apart. Google has announced the launch of Photos and Streams as two new separate products, along with Hangouts. The move indicates that the Google+ brand could eventually be phased out or entirely reinvented.
The social network, which had become rather complex due to efforts to incorporate all of Google's online services, is about to be split into clearly distinct modules. The first, Hangouts, will remain focused on communications including video chat. Photos, meanwhile, will take over from Google's former image sharing service. Finally, Streams will offer a customized newsfeed with comments, acting as the closest replacement for an actual social network. The latter two projects are being shepherded by Bradley Horowitz, the current vice president in charge of Google+.
An overly scattered network
Following the fanfare of the Google+ launch in June 2011, the buzz surrounding the project quickly died down. Anyone with a Gmail address can sign up, and the basic concept revolves around adding friends, family members and acquaintances to different "circles" to stay in touch online. Soon after the launch, Google began integrating all of its online products into the service, and many users found the result confusing.
Google, despite dominating the searches and email sectors, appears to have arrived on the social network scene too late -- and with an insufficiently focused strategy -- to truly compete with Facebook. At the end of 2014, Google+ claimed just over 300 million active users worldwide, compared to Facebook's over 1 billion.
Further details on the increasingly uncertain future of Google+ could be revealed at the Google I/O conference, which is set to take place May 28 and 29.