Even giants have Achilles heels. Google's is social. Try as it might, the search giant that lords over the Internet world has just not managed to crack the social code. From Orkut to Google+, it has been one long journey of experiments and failures. Last fortnight, when it officially delinked Google+ from YouTube, the world began writing obituaries to the five-year-old social network that never really took off.
So is Google going to now say minus to its Google+?
All the signs point that way. Slowly and steadily Google has been delinking compulsory Google+ linking from many of its other products. In the past it had tried to force the product on users of YouTube and other services. In 2013, it had started Google+ comments on YouTube videos linking the two much to the annoyance of users. But now in a surprise development, it has decided to cut that link and has posted a detailed guide on how users can delink their accounts.
There have been a series of other moves too that show that Google is now no longer going to bank so much on Google+. Take the way it had delinked Hangouts and Photos from Google+. In a blog post, Bradley Horowitz, the Google Vice President who took charge of the social network, says: "We will also move some features that are not essential to an interest based social experience out of Google+. For example, many elements of Google+Photos have been moved into the new Google Photos app. And we are well underway to putting location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, where it really belongs."
The fact that Google has started tinkering so much with Google+ has led to increased speculation that the search giant is setting the stage to kill the product.
Google's social experiments have been many. There was Orkut launched in 2004 - around the same time that Facebook started. And though Orkut had a significant following in India and Brazil, Google finally had to kill it in 2014 as the network just did not have the muscle. Then there was Reader, launched in 2005, which was killed in 2013. Wave and Buzz were other social experiments that failed. Finally in 2010, at the behest of its social architect Vic Gundotra, Google threw its weight behind the Google+ experiment.
Five years later, the numbers show that despite the powerful advantage of a linked Gmail Account, Google+ remains an empty platform - the influencers throng Facebook (FB), Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. While FB has more than 1.4 billion monthly active users, Google+ has just around 400 million or so monthly active users. While the others were rather quick in their mobile integration, Google+ fell behind.
Even as there have been acquisition rumours - will Google buy Twitter is a favourite discussion topic - Google itself seems averse to self-destruct its baby as yet. Horowitz says that Google+ will now focus on connecting users around specific interests. Interestingly, the Google+ team has been renamed as Streams, Photos and Sharing. Through photo sharing it will still keep a foothold in social media. But is that enough? Let's see if a second version will come out of the Google labs or Google+ will die a slow death.
DISRUPTING BUSINESS TRAVEL NEXT?
Following a year-long trial in the US, Airbnb recently announced a global expansion for its Business Travel Program. And new data suggests the new venture by the San Francisco-based website for people to rent out lodging, does have global appeal.
Meerkat and Twitter's Periscope now have company with Facebook Live going, well, live! Launched on August 5, the new video streaming service from the world's largest social network allows celebrities and public fi gures to livestream videos on the platform. Facebook Live will be accessible through its Mentions app launched last year.
It's fast becoming the era of live video streaming with Twitter claiming over a million people logged into Periscope just 10 days after it hit the app stores. Meerkat has logged in over two million users. While Meerkat and Periscope can be used by anyone, Live seems to be aimed only at public fi gures right now. "With Live, public fi gures can take fans behind the scenes, host a Q&A, share announcements, and more - all in real time," wrote Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at Facebook, in a blog post. "Live is a new way for you to connect authentically with your fans in the moment," he said.
Here's a happy announcement from Google. To give more flexibility to Indian users and developers on Google Play, the search giant has announced that, starting July 31, users in the country can get apps at as low as Rs 10.
Alistair Pott, Product Manager, Google Play, said in a blog post that India continues to be a major growth opportunity for developers to reach new users on Google Play. "We've received feedback from our global developer community and we are offering them more fl exibility to choose how much to charge for their apps and games in India."
With this change, Google hopes to acquire new paying users and drive its overall monetisation. It's all about scale, after all. While app usage is on a growing curve, it's still nowhere near web penetration - and discounts like these will find more conversions.