User anger and competition from rivals drive Google+ changes

Google is restructuring its social networking service as it tries to address user ire and compete with Facebook and Twitter.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said this week that it is revamping Google+ -- created four years ago to compete better in the social networking space -- to address user complaints and to move elements of Google+ into more discrete services.

The rejiggering of Google+ includes ending mandatory Google+ links to other services, which was a big bone of contention for many users.

“We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google … other than using Google+ itself,” said Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of Streams, Photos, and Sharing, in a Google+ post. The upshot is that a Google+ account won’t be necessary anymore to comment on YouTube.

Horowitz added that the YouTube link to Google+ was “confusing” and “perhaps most controversially, integration with YouTube implied that leaving a comment on YouTube…suddenly and unexpectedly required joining Google+.”

That requirement triggered a petition in late 2013 that began with: “Google is forcing us to make google+ accounts.”

But responding to user frustration is just one aspect of the changes. Google is also, in effect, dismantling Google+. Many elements of Google+ Photos have been moved into the new Google Photos app, Horowitz said in a post on Google's Official Blog.

Other features such as location sharing will be moved into Hangouts, Google’s chat app.

“We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful...Google+,” Horowitz wrote.

Competing with Facebook and Twitter

Google+ was launched in 2011 as a response to social networking properties like Facebook and Twitter.  But the dynamics of the social networking space change quickly.  Facebook, for example, now offers stand-alone apps and services such as Instagram and WhatsApp, popular photo-sharing and instant messaging services, respectively. In other words, the opposite of Google+ as conceived in 2011. At that time it was seen as an umbrella platform that combined different services.

"This is responding to customer expectations of targeted, micro-service apps," Bradley Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, told