RIP Google Plus. We hardly knew ye.
Yesterday we learned that Google Plus was being shut down following the news of a previously-undisclosed security breach that potentially allowed private information to be viewable to a wider audience than intended.
Regardless of the reason for the timing of the shutdown, Google Plus has been fading for years with ever-decreasing usage numbers. While many will joke that nobody ever used the service, I think that actually it represented the last strong online photo community.
After Flickr withered under Yahoo’s (lack of) leadership, Google launched a new social network that featured easy social sharing and discussion features and a visual interface that made photos look better than any of the other mainstream social networks at the time. When Google Plus launched, Facebook’s photo display was terrible. Small sizes and low resolutions.
Photographers who were previously among Flickr’s power users… folks such as Thomas Hawk… jumped into Google Plus on day one and embraced the network’s strong visual display and photo-sharing features. Vic Gundotra, Sr. VP at Google who oversaw Google Plus, was an avid photographer and supporter of the thousands of photographers who embraced Google Plus. It led to off-line activities such as meetups and photo walks.
I was one of those folks there on day one, and over time and through connections to other photographers ended up building a Google Plus following in excess of 20,000 folks1. It wasn’t just about sharing photos… there were the first hangouts, where we’d chat about photography and life. We wrote posts on Google Plus and shared links to our work elsewhere.
But alas, Google’s never gotten social software right. As lamented yesterday by Mr. Hawk on Twitter:
Orkut, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Google Wave, Picasa, Google Buzz, Google+
— Thomas Hawk (@thomashawk) October 8, 2018
I’d add Google Reader to that list as well.
After Gundotra left Google, Google Plus suffered from a mixture of neglect and attempts at making it something it wasn’t. As Google tried to cram everything into Google Plus, its strengths were buried and folks, including myself, moved on.
Google Plus was great in its day, and as a photographer, it was the last strong online photo community. While Instagram is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with the photo-and-story-centric nature of it, it really is just images and comments. Flickr and then Google Plus went beyond that, and there’s nothing currently in that space.
I miss them both from when they were great. RIP Google Plus.
- Being included on a few “recommended photographers” lists helped. ↩
John Hawkins says
I really appreciate you writing this. I think people tend to forget that even if something doesn’t become a huge global sensation, there are always pockets of people who can latch on, dig in, and really make use of something that others have long forgotten. We’ve seen it time and time again in the tech industry.