Google has quietly done away with the mandatory integration of Google+ for new Gmail users, adding fuel to the fire that is the speculation of the social network's demise.
Back in 2012, Google made the adoption of Google+ mandatory for all new Google service users. When you signed up for a new account for YouTube, Gmail, AdWords, or another Google product or service, you were registered for Google+ as well.
Now, the mass enrollment of all Google users into Google+ has been quietly discontinued.
The change wasn't announced, but I noticed it and asked Google about it. An official spokesperson confirmed the changes to me via email, stating: "We updated the signup experience in early September. Users can now create a public profile during signup, or later, if and when they share public content for the first time (like a restaurant review, YouTube video or Google+ post)."
The Slow and Systematic Disassembly of Google+ as a Social Network
The abrupt about-face on Google's part is just the latest step in a series to dissemble what the company fought so hard to bring together over the last several years: Google+ as a social layer over all Google products.
- This April, Google+ godfather Vic Gundotra suddenly announced his departure from Google after eight years, causing a lot of buzz about where Google+ might be heading.
- Late in June, Google killed its Authorship program by removing author photos and Circle counts from Google+ from search engine results.
- Hangouts has been one of the unique features of Google+ since 2011. However, this July, Google made Hangouts available to Apps users even if they didn't have a Google+ account.
- Last month, anonymous sources told Bloomberg that Google intends to open its photo service up to user without a Google+ account, in a new service called Google+ Photos.
Those events are bizarre when you consider how hard Google has fought to shake the "Google+ Ghost Town" perception. Those changes all have the potential to reduce engagement and user time on site.
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