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As Google+ nears 3rd anniversary, where does it go from here?

Its Google I/O conference has no sessions on Google+ next week, suggesting the social network is being reassessed

June 20, 2014 04:07 PM ET

Computerworld - With Google's social network coming up on its third anniversary, industry analysts are wondering if the company is rethinking Google+ and where it goes from here.

Google+, which has about 300 million active monthly users as of last October, has been in the shadow of Facebook and its more than 1 billion users, taking some criticism for not catching up to its competitor.

Then in April, Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president and the head of Google+, announced he was leaving the company. Gundotra was the public face of Google+, not to mention its biggest cheerleader.

His departure raised questions about the future of Google+ and whether it would falter without its steadfast leader.

Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference, will be held next week in San Francisco and there isn't one session about Google+. The schedule various sessions about Android, the cloud, Chrome and Google Play.

Google+, was launched on June 28, 2011, has been left out of the mix.

"I think, and I hope, they're taking the time to rethink it," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It was the wrong answer to the wrong question. The wrong question was, "What do we do about Facebook?" Google+ is potentially a great group collaboration tool, but it's not a social networking tool. Google has to figure out what to do."

A Google spokeswoman declined to say Google+ would be mentioned during the company's opening keynote at Google I/O. She added however, that the company is not revealing any of the elements of the upcoming keynote.

That doesn't mean Google is pulling back its support of Google+, said Liz Markman, the Google spokeswoman.

"Topics and sessions will touch on multiple products and give developers a more holistic overview," Markman said in an email to Computerworld. "Google+ is of course an important component to that... And, across the board, we will have fewer sessions this year. This is part of an effort to give developers more time to interact ..."

Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC, said there might be more going on than Google's not squeezing in time to talk to developers about Google+ and how to integrate it with the company's other services.

"Vic Gundotra has left and they've made it pretty clear that they're going to take a different approach with it," Strawn said. "I think they're going to let Google+ fade into the background."

Several analysts have said they expect the new leadership to bring change to the social network, but they expect any changes to be explained at Google I/O.

The company could shift its focus on Google+ as something more than a Facebook competitor.



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