Google is finally going to stop trying to make Plus happen.
The company announced in a blog post Monday that it will no longer force people to use a Google Plus account to log in to other, more popular Google services. That includes YouTube, whose users have been howling for years about the Google Plus requirement. Soon they’ll be able to log in with a plain old Google account.
From Google’s blog post:
When we launched Google Plus, we set out to help people discover, share and connect across Google like they do in real life. While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we’ve needed to rethink. So over the next few months, we’re going to be making some important changes.
Those changes include moving Google Plus’s location-sharing features into Google Hangouts and its (surprisingly excellent) photo-storage features into the new Google Photos app. Google also promises to make it easier for non–Google Plus users to delete the Google Plus profiles they never wanted in the first place.
Google is framing the changes as an example of its eagerness to listen and respond to the needs of its users:
People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.
That’s a bit rich, however. Google’s users, by and large, never wanted Google Plus in the first place, and they certainly never appreciated being dragooned into it in order to use other Google services that they did want.
So in reality, this is an admission of defeat. Google marshaled all the resources and monopoly power it could muster to build Google Plus into a viable Facebook rival, user backlash be damned. It didn’t work, and the best we can say of Google is that it’s finally acknowledging what has long been obvious to everyone else involved.
This is yet another opportunity for the tech press to declare Google Plus “dead,” but death is a very slow process when it comes to such a large product. Google prefers to call it “a more focused Google Plus experience.” By that it means that the social network will shift emphasis to what might be its only genuine constituency: interest-based communities who use the platform to share news and comments about niche topics like photography, electric cars, and outer space. Google Plus’s new “Collections” feature will let people group their posts by topic and follow topics rather than just other users. Think of it as a sort of male-dominated mini-Pinterest.
That obviously isn’t what Google had in mind when it set out build a Facebook killer. And, given Google’s track record of unceremoniously shuttering niche products, it may not be enough to save the social network in the long run. Still, it’s better than what Google Plus might have eventually become if the company had kept shoving it down users’ throats: a Google killer.
Previously in Slate: