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Yesterday, Google+ leader Vic Gundotra announced he was leaving Google and that engineering vice president David Besbris will be replacing him as senior vice president of Social. 

Since Gundotra left very little clue as to his next move — “Now is the time for a new journey. A continuation” — here is a little bit of history on the social network that’s still searching (!) for its place on the Internet. 

June 2011: Google unveils its social network, Google+, after months of awaiting.

July 2011: Facebook blocks contacts exporterGmail is plotting some integration with Google+Google+ now has 10 million users

September 2011: First Google+ API is hereGoogle+ finally opens to everyone

October 2011: Google kills Buzz and others

November 2011: Google+ and YouTubeGoogle+ adds Pages for brands and businesses 

December 2011: Gmail and Google+ cozy up even more

January 2012: Google+: “Just kidding, go ahead and use a fake name”

December 2012: Now you can start a group of like-minded individuals on Google+ — welcome to Communities 

September 2013: Congratulations, now you need to use your Google+ account to comment on YouTube

Looking forward

Now that Gundotra is no longer at the helm of Google+, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of it.

When it originally launched, it appeared to be Google’s answer to Facebook. It had profiles, abilities to post all sorts of content, follow others, and so on. However, as time went on, the product started to get deeper and deeper integration with Google’s other products, pointing to the fact that Google+ is more of a social layer for Google’s entire arsenal of products than a standalone social network.

Gundotra also led the now defunct Google Wave, which was hailed from the beginning as a communications layer on top of Google’s products. Wave was “part chat room, part collaborative document,” intended for exactly what Yammer, Slack, and others are helping companies do today.

Not surprisingly, much of that “layer” idea has taken over Google+ over time, especially after Wave was scrapped.

Google has also had terrible luck with other “social” type products, such as Buzz (which is now dead), and Orkut, which only took off in a few parts of the world, the U.S. not being one of them. So abandoning the idea of a standalone social network in favor of using it as a way to weave together Google’s other more popular and significant products makes a lot of sense.

As for Facebook’s recent move towards breaking out some standalone services as it’s doing with Messenger, Google+ already has Hangouts, which it has been beefing up with its Voice service and working to turn into a communications hub for Google users. The fact that its iOS app is finally working and looking pretty good is also a sign that Hangouts will be the mobile communications hub Google really wants to push.

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