It’s been a little more than a quarter since I took on leadership of a newly formed team, which we’ve christened SPS: Streams, Photos, and Sharing.
In that short time, I’ve had some time to reflect on the products we’ve built over the last few years, and also the opportunity to oversee the launch of our new Google Photos product. I’ve concluded that it’s time for a “pivot”... or more precisely time to talk more openly about a pivot that’s been underway for some time (and in fact is reflected in the name of the new team). We're going to continue focusing Google+ on helping users connect around the interest they love, and retire it as the mechanism by which people share and engage within other Google products.
Four years ago when we conceived of the “Google+ Project”, we made it clear that our goals were always two-fold: Google+ aspired to be both a “platform layer that unified Google’s sharing models”, and a product / stream / app in its own right.
This was a well-intentioned goal, but as realized it led to some product experiences that users sometimes found confusing. For instance, and perhaps most controversially, integration with YouTube implied that leaving a comment on YouTube (something users had obviously been doing successfully for years) suddenly and unexpectedly required “joining Google+.”
We decided it’s time to fix this, not only in YouTube, but across a user’s entire experience at Google. We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google… other than using Google+ itself.
Some of the consequences of this shift in thinking have already been deployed. Others we’re rolling out as fast as possible (e.g. the changes to YouTube we referenced today). And many more will roll out over the rest of the year.
What does this mean for Google+ the product? Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired. But you’ll also see a slew of improvements that make this use case shine (like the recent launch of Collections - https://plus.google.com/collections/featured).
It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how this strategy has played out as realized in the recent Google Photos launch, a product which in many ways embodies and telegraphs the changes discussed above. Google Photos not only doesn’t require a Google+ account, but as much of the functionality as possible doesn’t even require an account at all. It was important to me that when we launched Google Photos, we stressed the product implements sharing by any means a user prefers… without compromise or agenda. This is the right thing for users and the feedback and usage has been extremely validating.
I’m excited to share this strategy with the world, excited about what it means for Google+, and most of all for all of Google’s users.
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