Google has made the decision to scale back its Google+ service. Users will soon no longer be required to create a Google+ account in order to use services across the Google ecosystem. Instead of being forced to use Google+, users will have the option to use their standard Google or Gmail accounts.
YouTube is set to become a by-product of Google accounts, rather than a Google+ profile and users will not need to use Google+ profiles to comment on videos or to create new YouTube channels.
Bradley Horowitz, the vice president of streams, photos and sharing at Google said that he felt that Google got certain things right with the service, but that in hindsight there were some things that they needed to rethink. Having one Google account that gives users access to everything on the service makes things a lot easier, but many users felt that it didn’t make sense for a person’s Google+ profile to be their identity in every Google product that they used.
Google plans to make several changes to how the services work, and Horowitz took the time to address some of the security concerns that users have regarding the current Google+ functionality, explaining that as always, the Google Account itself will not be searchable or followable, unlike a public Google+ profile. Users who have already created Google+ profiles, but who do not plan on using the Google+ service will have options to manage or even remove that public profile.
The linking of accounts in public ways is something that has proven controversial in recent years. One high profile example involved the outing of a transgender woman who had not informed her colleagues that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery.
The changes to Google+ began to gain pace in June, when Google Photos was announced. Prior to this, Google had already removed the Google+ dependency from Hangouts. At the moment, the search giant does plan to keep Google+ as an optional social network which allows people to network by interest group, rather than in personal friend networks, but it is unclear how long the service will last. The company has a track record of shutting down services that fail to gain traction, and Google+ has certainly not attracted the attention that Google hoped it would. In spite of this, the developers do plan to continue supporting the service in the near future.