Google+ has removed the shared circles button that has allowed users to share groups of users and helped people discover content on the social network.

The feature lets you create and share groups, or circles, of users, that others can explore to find users to add to their own circles. It’s still possible to come across circles that users post on Google+ and then use it to create a new circle or add a new circle. But if you want to take one of your circles and share it, you’re out of luck; the button to perform that function is no longer available.

The shared circle button, which previously has appeared between the pencil for editing a circle and the trash can for deleting a circle, is now missing.

Above: The shared circle button, which previously has appeared between the pencil for editing a circle and the trash can for deleting a circle, is now missing.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

Google confirmed the news to VentureBeat today, a few days after Google+ introduced the Collections feature to share content to boards.

“With the launch of Collections a couple weeks ago, we’ve made some UI changes to help simplify Google+,” a Google spokesperson wrote in an email to VentureBeat. “We found that this feature wasn’t very useful for our users. People can still encourage their friends to follow a specific person or page by plus mentioning the person or page in a post.”

The news first came to light, naturally, in a post on Google+.

“+AyJay Schibig and +John R. Ellis have told us about the missing share buttons on the circles page,” Google+ analytics service CircleCount, which lists shared circles on its website, wrote in a Google+ post yesterday. “After checking our database we can confirm that there haven’t been any new shared circles in the last 1.5 days.

“The Top Contributors +John Elstone, +Marc-AndrĂ© Beauchamp and +John Skeats have confirmed that the shared circles are being deprecated.”

When Google added shared circles to Google+ in September 2011 — three months after the launch of Google+ — they could contain no more than 250 Google+ accounts; that limit was later bumped up to 500. They resemble Twitter lists and Facebook groups in some ways.

As of October 2013 Google+ had 300 million monthly active “in-stream” users who see or visit the Google+ stream of content, according to Marketing Land. Google has not provided Google+ usage metrics since then.

h/t: Google Plus Daily

Updated at 2:20 p.m. Pacific to add Google’s comment on the change.