Google Plus is no longer being promoted as prominently in Google search results according to Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s core ranking team in a talk last week.
Additionally, Techcrunch reported that Google may have cut off budget for any additional social acquisitions for at least the remainder of the year. Co-author of the Techcrunch piece, Alexia Tsotsis also suggested Google believes that Google Plus is overstaffed with 450 people (Facebook has about 3500, Twitter about 650 - admittedly not an apples-to-apples comparison).
The big question
Has Google Plus fallen out of favor at Google?
I suspect that’s not the case entirely, but for a company with $44 billion in cash to ratchet back resources from social is telling.
Google Plus has not been stagnant: they just purchased Wildfire, they successfully migrated Google Places into Google Plus Local, they just integrated with Blogger, eBay expressed interest to integrate the +1 button into their site, politicians are still using hangouts to outreach to their constituents… there is a lot of activity and evolution within the platform. But these are relatively small victories.
The big picture
It’s hard to consider the big picture and think that Google Plus is going to be a viable challenger to Facebook or Twitter. They’ve become reticent to put additional resources into the platform.
Most of the moves that Google Plus recently made favor augmentation to the current platform rather than a reimagining. The tacit assumption when sprucing up a house is that it has a solid foundation, and Google Plus does not have a solid enough foundation that appeals to the mass market. A typical Facebook user could not migrate tomorrow to Google Plus and have the same complement of applications and services (or most importantly size of network).
It may be that Google is waiting for Project Glass to lower the barrier of entry to Google Plus. It may have other strategic objectives. Whatever the case, I can’t help but feel a little disheartened by their (apparent, alleged?) de-emphasis on Google Plus. This may have been foreshadowed when Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social business asserted that “Google Plus is not a social network.”
Google Plus may not be anything close to the product it could or should be but it was the one product with enough resources to give the big guns a run for their money.