free html hit counter Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network) - John Battelle's Search Blog

Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network)

By - April 26, 2014

google+Since the news that Google+ chief Vic Gundotra has abruptly left the company, the common wisdom holds that Google’s oft-derided Facebook clone will not be long for this world. But whether or not Google+ continues as a standalone  product isn’t the question. Google likely never cared if Google+ “won” as a competitor to Facebook (though if it did, that would have been a nice bonus). All that mattered, in the end, was whether Plus became the connective tissue between all of Google’s formerly scattered services. And in a few short years, it’s fair to say it has.

As I wrote three years ago , the rise of social and mobile created a major problem for Google – all of a sudden, people were not navigating their digital lives through web-based search alone, they were also using social services like Facebook – gifting that company a honeypot of personal information along the way – as well as mobile platforms and apps, which existed mainly outside the reach of web-based search.

If Google was going to compete, it had to find a way to tie the identity of its users across all of its major platforms, building robust profiles of their usage habits and the like along the way. Google countered with Android and Google+, but of the two, only Android really had to win. Google+ was, to my mind, all about creating a first-party data connection between Google most important services – search, mail, YouTube, Android/Play, and apps.

Think about your relationship to Google five years ago – you most likely weren’t “logged in,” unless you were using a silo’d service like mail. Now think about it today – you most likely are. We have Google+ to thank for that. It’s done its job, and it’ll keep doing it, whether or not you ever use its social bells and whistles as a primary social network.

Google still has a lot of work to do on identity – anyone who has more than one login can attest to that. But Google+ has won – it’s forced the majority of Google users onto a single, signed in state across devices and applications. That protects and extends Google’s core advertising business, and opens up the ability to ladder new services – like Nest – into Google’s platform.


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21 thoughts on “Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network)

  1. pcguy8088 says:

    The services I use my Google sign on for is Google based services like G+, Gmail etc. I still use individual passwords for other services.

  2. Conrad Dunkerson says:

    It is amazing that the vast majority of the ‘tech media’ still has no understanding of Google+ AT ALL. Of all the articles out this week, this is the ONLY one I have seen where the writer comprehends what Google+ >is<. The 'social layer' Google has been describing it as all along… rather than the 'social network' people continue to insist on seeing instead. The social layer has succeeded beyond anything Google could have hoped for. The social network was never more than window dressing… but has in fact grown to the point that it is now more active than Twitter, Pinterest, and all the others EXCEPT Facebook.

    • Jordan says:

      So essentially, Google+ is not a social network in itself, but is the social layer (or social identity) that connects all of their services…?

      • Knowles2 says:

        Yes. That what Google always wanted the service to be. Through it have taken a long time to get there and actually still got a pretty long way to go. It actually make sense that Hangouts and Photos move away from Google+ nest and become more independence products. Why Google + focus on being the connective tissue linking these services together.

  3. george says:

    Google+ has huge potential but it’s not a business triumph, yet. Clearly, they need a mechanism to string/identify users data across platforms to link their future S-Curve but there’s a real delicate balance at play here. Google+ doesn’t quite hit the same beauty marks as google search – user simplicity and operating excellence. I’ve always respected Google for generally avoiding the one-size fits all strategy but there’s still plenty to learn in omni-data connecting, like how to avoid negative implications on the other well-designed services.

  4. jeffyablon says:

    Concur with @conraddunkerson:disqus. In fact, Eric Schmidt acknowledged this right after G+ went live (see ). Google would of course have been happy to see Goolgle+ compete more meaningfully with Facebook,, but the real goal of G+ has always been exactly what it’s become.

    It simply doesn’t matter if it stays “productized”.

  5. […] « Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network) […]

  6. […] Google+ won (or why Google never needed a social network) >> John Battelle’s Search Blog […]

  7. Daniel Taibleson says:

    You’re exactly right here John, but you really aren’t even scraping the surface…I wonder if you’re saving it for another blog post… 😉

    • johnbattelle says:

      Funny – say more. Yes, I have a lot more to say, but this was written quickly before I headed out for a ride…


  9. […] Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network), John Battelle’s Searchblog […]

  10. […] Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network), John Battelle’s Searchblog […]

  11. […] Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network), John Battelle’s Searchblog […]

  12. […] Google+ perceived (Or Why Google by no means indispensable A Social community), John Battelle’s Searchblog […]

  13. […] Face à la suprématie de Facebook, Google se retire de la course et préfère concentrer ses forces sur sa plus belle réussite : Android. Mais la disparition probable de Google+ en tant que portail ne peut être considérée comme un échec dans la mesure où l’objectif premier a été transformé : relier tous les services de Google entre eux et inciter les utilisateurs à s’identifier. De ce point de vue là, l’opération est même une franche réussite avec notamment l’implémentation de l’authorship et la généralisation des profils Google : Google+ won (or why Google never needed a social network). […]

  14. […] » Google+ Won (Or Why Google Never Needed A Social Network) Great point: Google+ might not look like a hit to users, but for Google it served its purpose: unifying all Google services under one account, improving the collection of user data. […]

  15. […] As I’ve written in the past, I always saw the social network aspects of Google+ as frosting on the cake; the true win was identifying and tracking Google users. John Battelle wrote just that: […]

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  17. Voucha says:

    Somehow you’re “force” to connect to G+ when you have a google account.

  18. […] Capire in quale direzione stiamo andando significa capire dove investire tempo ed energie in modo da avere un ritorno a medio termine, mi interrogo quasi tutti i giorni per intuire quali siano le scelte strategiche più giuste per me e la mia società in modo da anticipare il mercato. Cinque anni fa non eravamo “loggati” a nulla, le ricerche su Google dominavano la scena e la parola community faceva rimandare ai migliaia di siti con forum sui più disparati argomenti. L’iPhone era una novità assoluta in tasca a pochi e i tablet ancora non esistevano. L’evoluzione tecnologica avvenuta negli ultimi CINQUE anni ha del miracoloso, proprio come teorizzato da Raymond Kurzweil nella legge dei ritorni accelerati: “L’analisi storica del progresso tecnologico dimostra che l’evoluzione della tecnologia segue un processo di crescita esponenziale“. La battaglia per imporsi come piattaforma mainstream delle conversazioni ha un vero vincitore, Facebook che nel primo trimestre di quest’anno ha fatturato 2,5 miliardi di dollari. Tutto è diventato sociale. La condivisione non è una funzione, ma una norma. La cacofonia ha raggiunto un livello tale che non si sa più chi è la fonte della notizia: anche i “vecchi media” si sono buttati in forze sui social network per catturare nuovi lettori. Sempre nell’articolo in cui si mostrano i fatturati della creatura di Mark Zuckerberg si evidenzia come il 59% di questo fatturato derivi dalle Ad Revenue da Mobile, segno che il WEB è decisamente in crisi e che la tendenza sono le app in mobilità. Google domina la scena dell’informazione digitale da molti anni: Android, YouTube, search, Maps, ecc. L’arrivo dei social network, in cui la profilazione dei frequentatori e maggiormente efficiente dal punto di vista commerciale ha costretto l’azienda a profilare i suoi utenti accorpando in un unico accesso tutti i suoi servizi. Google Plus è stata la risposta: più che un social network è il collettore per tutti i servizi dell’azienda di Mountain View in cui l’utente e tracciato dalla ricerca, fino alla paternità dei contenuti. Un Social Layer, lo racconta benissimo John Battelle in questo post. […]