As much as I liked the concept of Google+ (or is it Google Plus? There still seems to be no consensus), I can’t say I’ve used it a ton. When it launched three years ago, I was among the many who had high hopes for the platform, wishing it would replace Facebook. When that didn’t prove to be the case and its usefulness as a social networking platform never really seemed to take hold, there still were compelling reasons to use Google+, especially for businesses–the Hangouts feature, SEO and enhanced search listings for pages/people with Google+ profiles being the main ones. And for individuals who blog or contribute to publications, Google authorship was worth setting up a Google+ profile for in terms of SEO and verification of authority.
However, it seems like the more time goes by, the less likely it seems that Google+ will be around for the long haul. First there was Vic Gundotra’s announcement that he was leaving Google+, coupled with staffing changes moving employees off Google+ to other teams. Then Google did an about-face on their original “real name” policy implemented when they launched Google+. Next to go was Hangouts, which now works with Google Apps and doesn’t require Google+. Then a few days later, yet another key feature of Google+–photos–was reported to be on the way to being autonomous.
Meanwhile, Google killed authorship reporting in Webmaster tools and removed author photos from search results (although this one is apparently debatable). I can’t find any stats about Google+ Communities participation so can’t speculate about whether they’d keep that feature or, if they’re doing a firesale of all Google+ features, whether or not it seems likely that Communities will soon be headed to pasture too. If the core functionality of Google+ seems to be bleeding out, though, I can’t help but wonder if Google will eventually just merge Communities with the now redundant-ish Google Groups? After all, even though Communities were touted as a Google Groups killer when they were introduced, Google Groups still exist, while something that was super useful toGoogle Reader–sob–doesn’t.
With all this splinterization of the key features that made Google+ noteworthy as a platform, does it really seem likely that Google+ will suffer a better fate than the ghosts of Google things past? And, if not, is it still worth focusing on building a presence on Google+?