Google has announced plans to shut down its social network. When Google+ first launched in 2011, the company focused on features like “Circles,” which gave users more control over who they shared updates with than rivals like Facebook and Twitter, and “Hangouts,” which allowed for text and video chatting.

But while Google+ developed some loyal fans, it never became a true Facebook competitor and some of the best features, like Hangouts, spun off to become standalone products.

Now Google has announced it’s pulling the plug on Google+ with a wind-down that’s set to conclude by the end of August, 2019. It’s not just because Google+ wasn’t all that popular though: Google also discovered a security vulnerability that reminded the company of how much work goes into maintaining the relatively unpopular service.

In fact, Google announced the shutdown of Google+ in a blog post that’s more about security than it is about social networking.

The company launched Project Strobe earlier this year in an effort to review third-party developer access to Google account information. One of the things the company found was that a Google+ API that allowed users to grant their profile data to a third-party app could also be used to harvest data about your contacts even if it was not publicly shared.

Google says it’s found no evidence that any third-party developers exploited that vulnerability before it was patched in March, 2018. But as many as 438 third-party apps may have used the API and more than half a million users may have been affected.

While Google could have simply issued a software update and moved on, Google+ also has a bit of a reputation as a ghost town — and it’s one that Google seems to think is fairly well deserved. The company notes that 90 percent of user sessions last for less than five seconds: even people who are using Google+ are barely using it.

So rather than try to keep the social network secure, Google is killing it off.

As for the other announced findings related to Project Strobe, Google says:

  • It will offer more fine-grained control over the data that’s shared with third-party apps when you use your Google Account to login.
  • Only apps that are designed to enhance email functionality will be able to request access to your Gmail account.
  • Android apps will only be able to request SMS and Phone permissions if they’re you’re default apps for calls or text messages. And Google won’t let third-party apps interact with data from your Contact list anymore.

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22 replies on “Google+ is shutting down in August, 2019 (because nobody used it and it wasn’t all that secure)”

  1. I use hangout. I like hangout, Facebook kick me off because I was for Trump, Twitter has a problem of blocking people that is following you. Now what to do.

  2. I like the fact that they tried. I can’t say that Google is full of visionaries. Google came in long after the Facebook monopoly and doubled-down on real names, data-collection, phone numbers, etc. It simply wasn’t a better product – just more of the same.

    They went after the ipod/iphone category before Apple had gained a foothold but Apple never tries to sell to the masses – they always lock themselves into a niche. So any company could have filled the gaping hole Apple always creates. So we have Android… warts and all.

    Microsoft, another company that lacked vision, mocked the category completely. By the the time they reacted they did not build a better product. Just like they did not build a better product with Zune.

    With search, Google actually developed a better product over established competitors of the time. That’s what catapulted them. Gmail too was a better product. Chrome crushed because… a better product. Reader (RSS) was a gold standard (but too niche for a company interested in Googols).

    There are few areas where Google is trying to build better products. The Pixels Laptops are one of the few (though they still limit ports). ChromeOS is NOT a better product on the Desktop… yet. Android may have a foothold but can be supplanted by a better product.

    1. Chrome OS is the dominant player in the education space these days. With Android support now, I think it makes a reasonable case for consumers as well.

      1. “Chrome OS is the dominant player in the education space these days.” – In one country, let’s say. I’ve fixed it. But how important is this globally for a global company like Google?

      2. Only in the US. Chrome is pretty much absent from education everywhere else.

  3. Given how fast Google kills off products, I’m surprised it took them this long. The cause being a massive security breach just makes it all worse.

    Google: “We got hacked so we’re shutting it down.”

    1. Isn’t that the case for all social media or even the Internet in general? Of course, I don’t have a solution. I thought using your real identity would help solve this a lot but I guess many people are trolls in real life as well.

  4. Does that now bring the total number of projects killed by Google to 21, or more?

    I guess it is unlikely that they will ever kill off “gmail” because every address is an e-mail to which they can send marketing campaign spam.

    1. Huh? What’s it matter how many things they kill off. And gmail is a rather popular and rather secured email service. And it doesn’t result in a lot of spam from Google, not directly anyway.

      1. It matters a lot.

        Just goes to show how half-baked Google makes its own projects, and how little support they give it. It means the corporation has little faith in its products and itself. So why should consumers?
        History is littered with these examples, Google is a very incompetent company and almost all its successful projects (Search, YouTube, Android) had a lot more to do with luck and marketing than being a great product.

          1. Exactly my point. There was a significant degree of “luck” involved in getting these projects to become successful. In a healthy competitive market, they wouldn’t have stood a chance with such nepotism.

          2. Google creates and kills off so many things. Both users and developers are probably better off not adopting anything Google craps out so they don’t have to deal with the product/service eventually getting killed off.

            Google probably needs a better very process before releasing anything.

        1. Not necessarily. Many of their canned projects, like Wave and Scribe, came back as features to other products. So as a metric of success, I don’t think that’s the best way to determine their support for projects or success otherwise.

          What I think would be interesting is tracking individual features over time, especially in regards to Hangouts, which initially had a large influx as Google consolidated its chat platform, and now an outflow as features like SMS are slowly dropped as competitors like Allo and Duo arrive, and the Android versions see a bit of re-fragmentation.

  5. Does this mean that apps like WhatsApp won’t be able to access your contact list anymore? Will you have to transfer contacts manually?

    1. The list of contacts on an Android phone are nothing to do with Google+, so they will be unaffected.

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