Now that Google+ creator Vic Gundotra has left the company, it’s natural to wonder what will happen to the social network that never really took off despite having an immediate population of users through Gmail, YouTube and other Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (GOOGL) services. Google CEO Larry Page has said that the company won’t abandon Google+, but Alexia Tsotsis and Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch report that the service is all but dead.
Even though Google+ vice president of engineering David Besbris is expected to be named as Gundotra’s replacement, two sources at Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (GOOGL) told TechCrunch that the team, with over 1000 employees, is being reshuffled and assigned other tasks more closely related to mobile.
“When you fire the top dog and take away all resources it is what it is,” said one of the sources.
Google+ couldn’t turn a built-in user base into relevance
As much as people complain about Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s privacy policies and interface changes, it has always had the advantage of size. Unlike Friendster and MySpace, both of which quickly dried up surprisingly quickly, anyone who wants to challenge Facebook has to overcome a powerful network effect – the service has to be so good that people will use it when all of their friends are somewhere else. Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), which now arguably has its own moat because of its number of active users, competes for ad revenue but really plays a different role in people’s online activities.
Google+ could overcome the size advantage by simply creating an account for everyone who already uses Gmail, and then later by forcing people to sign-in when commenting on YouTube videos (a move that was heavily criticized). Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (GOOGL) has been able to claim that Google+ has lots of active users by counting anyone who signs into these other services, but this defies most people’s experience with the service (or lack thereof).
Google doesn’t need Google+, it has Android
The irony is that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is devoting resources to improving its position in the mobile space, where Google is already entrenched. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (GOOGL)’s Android OS ships on about four out of five smart phones, dwarfing Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) market share and giving it a platform to push all kinds of other apps. Google may have simply decided that it doesn’t make sense to spend so much brainpower losing yesterday’s battle when it could build on its strengths in mobile.