The End of an Era (sort of): What You Need to Know About the Google+ Shutdown


And just like that, Google+ is now a memory (June 28, 2011 – April 2, 2019). The social media network was the brainchild of Google execs who, despite past failed attempts, believed this time things would be different.  However, those hopes never came to fruition. So, why didn’t Google+ catch fire?

It’s not you, it’s me. We’ve all heard the line coined by our friend, George Costanza.  With Google+, the blame falls solely on the hands of Google, especially after a software glitch had exposed 500,000 users’ data for nearly three years. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, as we should start from the beginning.

Launched in 2011, the social network aimed to cut through the awkwardness people encounter on Facebook and Twitter. You know, that uncomfortable political post or cringe worthy selfie. Google+ featured the ability to share photos, post quick updates, instant messaging, text and video chats. If you build it, they will come resonated with Google+, as more than 395 million users utilized the platform. However, just 9% of registered users actually posted content.

Why is Google+ shutting down? Here’s the real reason….

Although, Google’s social media attempt couldn’t keep up with Facebook, the official explanation of why Google+ ended was because of a security breach. Google stated they discovered a glitch in its system that allowed third-party apps to access some of the private information of up to 500,000 users between 2015 and March 2018. The bug was found during a data protection audit called Project Strobe, where users were able to grant access to their profile information, and the public profile data of their friends to third party apps.

Disclosed data included the name, email address, occupation, gender and age of nearly half a million Google+ users. The glitch was patched immediately after being found and believed to have been the result of the API’s interaction with a Google+ code change. Google claimed the bug was limited to Google+ profile fields and did not include any posted content, messages and other Google account data such as phone numbers. Google found no evidence of developers abusing the API or that anyone was aware of the glitch.

Okay, so it was a data breach. Got it. Any other reason why Google+ is going away?

Well, yes. The platform struggled immensely with low user engagement. Google in their defense stated Google+ did serve as a useful internal communications tool for many corporations, however, consumer usage has been on a steady decline since 2016. The reason? Google+ barely offered any new functionality over existing social media platforms and essentially could not compete with the powerful presence of Facebook and Twitter.

What Does this Mean for You, the Google+ User?

Google is granting users a 10-month window to migrate any data such as messages and chats following the shutdown. Businesses with Google+ accounts should also make sure they remove the plus icon on their website, as these links will no longer be active.