Google has finally announced the Google+ news that everyone has been waiting for: Your Google+ profile will no longer be your identity in all Google products. This change will be trickling out “in the coming months,” and the first product to enjoy the change will be the one that was most negatively affected by Google’s Google+ obsession: YouTube.
Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, says the changes are a response to user feedback (much like LinkedIn did this weekend): “We’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.” No shit.
The move means you’ll soon be able to use your standard Google account to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel, and so on. Unlike your public Google+ profile, your Google account is not searchable or followable.
In fact, if you already created a Google+ profile (read: Google conned you into doing it) but don’t plan to use Google+, the company says it will “offer better options for managing and removing” your public profile. Horowitz says the changes are meant to strike a balance between the select few who actually like using Google+ and everyone else whom Google forced to sign up for its social network.
The YouTube team has shared how these changes will affect comments and channels on the video site. In short: Google+ will slowly but surely be going away.
Starting today, the comments you make on YouTube will no longer appear on Google+. The same applies the other way: Nothing you post on Google+ will appear on YouTube.
That said, YouTube says its creator community did like Google+’s moderation options on channels, such as reviewing comments before they’re posted, blocking certain words, and auto-approving comments from certain fans. These features will remain, just sans Google+.
In related news, YouTube has been improving the ranking system that reduces the visibility of junk comments. The Google-owned company says the rate of dislikes on comments “has dropped by more than 35 percent across YouTube.”
In the “coming weeks,” YouTube will no longer require a Google+ profile when you want to upload, comment, or create a channel. That means if you want to remove your Google+ profile, you’ll be able to do so “in the coming months.”
That said, Google does offer a warning to YouTube users: Do not delete your Google+ account now “or you’ll delete your YouTube channel (no bueno).” In other words, the changes are finally coming, but you still have to be patient or Google+ will still screw you.
Horowitz made a point to emphasize, once again, that Google+ isn’t going away. Instead, he reiterated that the company will be offering “a more focused Google+ experience.”
In other words, Google+ has a core set of users that really do enjoy using the service. “Google+ is quickly becoming a place where people engage around their shared interests, with the content and people who inspire them,” Horowitz said.
More specifically, Google plans to continue to offer new features in Google+ and move “features that aren’t essential to an interest-based social experience” into existing products.
In May, Google launched Google+ Collections, a way to share videos, links, and photos on different category boards. Later that month, the company also introduced Google Photos, and moved many elements of Google+ Photos into that new app. Next, Google will be bringing location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, “where it really belongs.”
Google has been talking about these changes for months. In March, Google’s senior vice president Sundar Pichai hinted at splitting Google+ apart.
Today is just another part of the plan. It’s just that Google is finally executing the best part.
Update: Horowitz has posted his thoughts on Google+, describing in more detail what the move which he describes as a pivot. Again, this has been in the works for a while. You’ll still hear about Google+ going forward, but increasingly Google’s social strategy, for better or for worse, will be a three-pronged push: Streams, Photos, and Sharing.
Here’s the post in full:
It’s been a little more than a quarter since I took on leadership of a newly formed team, which we’ve christened SPS: Streams, Photos, and Sharing.
In that short time, I’ve had some time to reflect on the products we’ve built over the last few years, and also the opportunity to oversee the launch of our new Google Photos product. 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). We’re going to continue focusing Google+ on helping users connect around the interest they love, and retire it as the mechanism by which people share and engage within other Google products.
Four years ago when we conceived of the “Google+ Project”, we made it clear that our goals were always two-fold: Google+ aspired to be both a “platform layer that unified Google’s sharing models”, and a product / stream / app in its own right.
This was a well-intentioned goal, but as realized it led to some product experiences that users sometimes found confusing. For instance, and perhaps most controversially, integration with YouTube implied that leaving a comment on YouTube (something users had obviously been doing successfully for years) suddenly and unexpectedly required “joining Google+.”
We decided it’s time to fix this, not only in YouTube, but across a user’s entire experience at Google. We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google… other than using Google+ itself.
Some of the consequences of this shift in thinking have already been deployed. Others we’re rolling out as fast as possible (e.g. the changes to YouTube we referenced today). And many more will roll out over the rest of the year.
What does this mean for Google+ the product? Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, 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. But you’ll also see a slew of improvements that make this use case shine (like the recent launch of Collections – https://plus.google.com/collections/featured).
It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how this strategy has played out as realized in the recent Google Photos launch, a product which in many ways embodies and telegraphs the changes discussed above. Google Photos not only doesn’t require a Google+ account, but as much of the functionality as possible doesn’t even require an account at all. It was important to me that when we launched Google Photos, we stressed the product implements sharing by any means a user prefers… without compromise or agenda. This is the right thing for users and the feedback and usage has been extremely validating.
I’m excited to share this strategy with the world, excited about what it means for Google+, and most of all for all of Google’s users.
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