Somehow, don’t ask me how, Google’s zombie of a social network experiment has shambled its way to the grand age of five years old. That’s right, Google+ was launched on June 28th, 2011, at a time when Google still thought it could head off the rising threat of Facebook and its irresistible urge to consume the entire internet. Like its predecessor Google Buzz, G+ failed to convince people to make it part of their everyday lives, even though it hooked into ubiquitous online services like Gmail, YouTube, and Google search.
At varying points, Google+ was pushed as Google’s premier photo-sharing platform, or its go-to video chat destination, or, most egregiously, a necessary portal for logging in to your YouTube account. All of those efforts have now been scaled back or reversed, leaving G+ as a vestige of an over-ambitious Google that miscalculated just how far user goodwill would take it. Google+ started off promisingly, especially for people like myself who were (and still are) desperate for an alternative to Facebook’s blue blandness, but its interface wasn’t especially user-friendly and its founding concept of bundling people into Circles felt strangely sociopathic.
Today, Google+ persists mostly as a gesture of loyalty to established users and communities, of which there are still a few highly engaged ones kicking around. It will never scale the heights of Google’s original ambitions, and after all its fragmentation into smaller bits, its ultimate fate is most likely to be as another bullet point on Google’s spring cleaning list of service discontinuations. But for now at least, G+ lives on!