Home > companies > Google relaunches Google Plus with focus on communities and collections

Could it be third time lucky?

Google, which first shut down Orkut and then struggled with Google Plus, is back in the social media space in a new avatar.

The search giant, which hived off photos, videos and chat from Google Plus just a few months back, has decided to relaunch the network with a “focus around interests" and mobile-first design.

In a blog post, Eddie Kessler, Google’s director of streams, wrote on Tuesday, “Today, we’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts communities and collections front and center. Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler." He added, “And it’s more mobile-friendly—we’ve rebuilt it across Web, Android and iOS so that you’ll have a fast and consistent experience whether you are on a big screen or small one."

Google said that it had “spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say". It found out that users kept coming back to two of its features—Communities, which it says averages “1.2 million new joins per day", and Collections, which it launched five months back, “and is growing much faster". Kessler wrote, “Whether its the Nonfiction Addiction Community, where people can be found discussing the best in Crime or Travel storytelling, or the Watch Project Collection, where more than 40,000 people are following an unique watch hobbyist, these are the places on Google+ where people around the world are spending their time discovering and sharing things they love."

In many ways, the relaunch signals Google’s intent to focus on the parts of the site that did (and are still doing well).

In a post on his Google+ profile, Luke Wroblewski, Google’s product director, added, “But we didn’t stop with Collections and Communities; the new Google+ also makes it easier to post, search, connect and keep up with great content in a fully redesigned home stream." Wroblewski added that Google has “worked hard to make our new web experience load fast and work beautifully on devices of all sizes". On his Twitter page, he wrote, “Before home page weight: 22,600 KB After: 327 KB And a much richer set of UI animations, transitions and more."

Wroblewski, according to Bradley Horowitz, vice-president, Photos and Streams at Google, was the key architect of the newly-designed Google+. In an interview to TechCrunch’s Drew Olanoff, Horowitz was quoted as saying, “We asked ourselves ‘how can we make this better and serve more people?’ We brought Luke in and he spent a lot of time architecting how we’re going to move forward with G+ looking at data, doing a tonne of user research, and thinking through what are the things about this product that shine and what parts should be deemphasized."

The article continues, “The team also did a ‘road trip’ where they talked to avid G+ users, asking them what they’d like to get out of using it. The new design has also been tested with hardcore users, giving Google more details to work off of."

Horowitz, in the interview, also alluded to the fact that “peeling things out of Google+ for the aim of success" was part of its chief executive officer Sundar Pichai’s “product excellence" philosophy.

Horowitz said that the moment was perfect “because we have the opportunity to take great technologies, unencumbered by expectations and present them to users in a way that matters to them". He added, “It’s a way for passionate product people like Sundar, Luke and me to help people rather than hose them down with technology."

But why would Google want to restructure a network that has failed? An article in tech website Re/Code seeks to explain the possible reasons behind Google Plus’s revival. Streams, it says, are “critical for Google". The reasons for the same? Because they are “1) Mobile creatures, the primary avenue to Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, which are all robbing Google of user attention; 2) Adored by advertisers." Why advertisers you ask? The story continues, “Advertisers like things build around common interests; it gives them clear targeting—these people really like this thing, and will buy stuff related to it. Google does not offer Plus ad product yet, but one of these features would leverage purchase intent, its key differentiator from Facebook in the ad world."

However, the numbers suggest a different story altogether. As of August 2015, Google+ had 300 million active users every month. Compare that with Facebook, which recently reported that over 1 billion users were logging on to its service every day, with over 1.5 billion monthly active users.

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