Listening to Google reps trying to explain what Google is doing with its social network reminds me of going to the dentist. "Well, Mr. Brandon, we see a problem on your incisor near the alveolar bone, but we can solve that by using a dab of acrylic resin." They use words that sound painful, which doesn't help the cause of dentistry overall. I'm not sure I understand any of the strategies, and I'm not sure I care that much--I just need to get back to my laptop and my dark roast coffee.
In a similar way, Google+ has always been an enigma, even from day one. I remember being a little enamored of it, but it was mostly because it was such a ghost town--one that was inhabited by people like Michael Dell and other luminaries. I felt a rush of excitement when I made a slightly sarcastic comment on a post by Larry Page. It felt personal, as though he might respond (he never did). It had potential.
Unfortunately, just today, the search giant announced it is splitting up Google+ into two separate entities called Photos and Streams. (They are also keeping Google+ alive--at least for now.) Sit down on this dentist chair and I'll try to explain what that all means. First, Photos is exactly what you think it is--a repository for photos. It's not the same as Picasa, which involves a desktop app. (You know something is seriously outdated when the computer requirements don't mention Windows 8.) You can snap a photo from your phone and store it automatically to Photos and share it.
Streams is not that hard to understand, either. It's just the social network feed you see from friends, and you can split those streams out according to friend groups.
What's incredibly confusing, though, is that these will become separate products. If you're like me and you've been trying to use Google+ for business, it's all become a big horrendous mess. You can post easily to Google+ (and I did, for a while), but few of us have time to manage Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, our Twitter activity, and then jump over to see who has liked (er, plus one'd) a message, let alone track followers (er, circles). I haven't even mentioned Communities (sort of a forum, but not really), Pages (sort of like a business site, but not really), Events (don't even ask), and Hangouts (video chats). Nor have I used those tools in over a year. (Since Hangouts pretty much exists as a separate product and even as two separate video-conferencing computers, there's no need to initiate those video chats from within Google+.) I have not seen any value in them.
So, here's the real issue. I've heard a few experts argue that Google uses a conquer and divide approach to their products, splintering them out to save them and closing them down when they fail, but always acting with fluidity and decisiveness. Well, hello? What's the goal here, anyway? Is it to prove your tech prowess? For me, I want to find experts, have people click on links, and maybe see a few funny pictures. I already use other social nets for those activities. Google+ never differentiated itself and made the site so compelling and useful that I wanted to abandon any other portal. Heck, I like Pinterest better.
They were onto something when I felt like I was connecting with Larry Page and Michael Dell. It was a tech haven. They never capitalized on that idea. It was just digital noise.
The popular view on Google+ is that it will soldier on and possibly even rebound. I don't think so. When Google closes a door, they rarely open a window. The reason they are splitting up these services is because they want to save their investment in them and salvage the code before shuttering Google+ once and for all.
It's been a long, miserable road. Google+ never really helped me find any experts, and I have mostly ignored the portal for the past two years. It deserves to be a ghost town.