What happened to Google Plus?

Google Plus was a Google-owned social network that operated from 2011 to 2019. Its low usage and engagement due to convoluted sign-up processes and bundling with Gmail accounts. Google Plus also suffered two major breaches of privacy after bugs were found in its API. The first breach was kept a secret for six months, while the second affected over 52 million user accounts. Google Plus for consumers was rebranded as Shoelace, a community-based meet-up service for like-minded individuals that was itself shut down because of COVID-19 protocols. Google Plus for business still exists in some form as Google Currents.

Introduction and GoalsGoogle+ (pronounced Google Plus) was a social networking platform developed by Google Inc. It was officially launched to the public in June 2011. Google’s goal with Google+ was to create a social network that could compete with existing platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It aimed to offer features such as Circles (for organizing contacts), Hangouts (for video conferencing), and integration with other Google services. Google+ was designed to be a comprehensive social network that integrated seamlessly with the Google ecosystem.
Initial Hype and AdoptionGoogle+ generated significant buzz upon its launch, partly due to Google’s reputation and its attempt to enter the social media space. It introduced several unique features, such as the ability to categorize contacts into Circles, allowing for selective sharing. Early adopters and tech enthusiasts joined the platform to explore its offerings. Google+ integration with other Google services, like Gmail and Google Photos, encouraged users to join and connect with their existing contacts.
User Engagement and CirclesCircles were a key feature of Google+ that allowed users to organize their contacts into groups (such as friends, family, and colleagues) and share content selectively with specific Circles. This feature was praised for its privacy and sharing control. Google+ also emphasized the concept of “Hangouts,” which enabled video conferencing and group chats. User engagement varied, with some users enjoying the platform’s unique features, while others continued to primarily use Facebook or Twitter for social networking.
Challenges and Privacy ConcernsGoogle+ faced challenges in gaining widespread adoption. Facebook remained the dominant social network, making it challenging for Google+ to compete. Some users found Google+ to be confusing or less intuitive compared to other platforms. Additionally, privacy concerns arose regarding Google+’s data collection practices and its integration with Google services, leading to scrutiny by regulators. Google+ also faced criticism for its real-name policy, which required users to use their real names, resulting in account suspensions for those who did not comply.
Business and Marketing FocusGoogle+ also targeted businesses with features like Google+ Pages, which allowed companies to create profiles and interact with customers. The platform aimed to enhance online marketing efforts through Google+’s SEO benefits and the potential to reach a broader audience. Google attempted to leverage Google+ for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, which led to the controversial integration of Google+ profiles with Google Search results. This effort to boost Google+ engagement had mixed results and faced backlash from users and competitors.
Decline and ShutdownOver time, it became evident that Google+ was not achieving the level of success Google had hoped for. User engagement did not match that of Facebook, and privacy concerns continued to linger. In October 2018, Google announced that it had discovered a data breach that exposed the personal information of Google+ users. As a result, Google decided to shut down the consumer version of Google+ in April 2019. The shutdown was accelerated, moving the date from August 2019 to April 2019. Google cited low user engagement and the data breach as the primary reasons for discontinuing the platform.
Legacy and ImpactGoogle’s foray into social networking through Google+ may not have been as successful as envisioned, but it left a lasting impact. Some features, such as Hangouts and Circles, influenced subsequent Google products and services. The lessons learned from Google+’s experience informed Google’s approach to privacy and data handling in other services. Additionally, the closure of Google+ raised discussions about the challenges and ethical considerations of data handling and privacy in social media platforms. Overall, while Google+ did not become a major competitor to Facebook, it played a role in shaping Google’s broader strategy and approach to social networking and online privacy.


Google Plus was a Google-owned social network launched on June 28, 2011, by Bradley Horowitz and Vic Gundotra.

The service formed part of a suite of Google products including Google Drive, Blogger, and YouTube to compete with Facebook, among other platforms.

Google Plus was shut down in 2019, becoming the company’s third failed attempt at creating a social network after Orkut in 2004 and Google Buzz in 2010.

What happened to Google Plus? How did it fail with the power and influence of parent company Google behind it? Read on to find out.

Low usage and engagement

Google software engineer Ben Smith noted that the platform had failed to meet expectations around growth and adoption. “While our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps.

Perhaps more damning for the platform was that according to Smith, 90% of all Google Plus user sessions lasted less than five seconds. It is generally accepted that low usage and engagement were caused by Google forcing new users to jump through too many hoops. At one point, it required them to create an account to comment on ancillary services such as YouTube. It also tied Google Plus to the process of signing up for a Gmail account – whether the user wanted a new social account or not.

Data leaks

In early 2018, it was revealed Google had discovered a bug in the Google Plus API. This bug allowed third-party app developers to access the data of users and also their friends. Google knew about the vulnerability for around six months, only choosing to come clean once a Wall Street Journal publicly outed the company.

Google released a blog post in October 2018 noting that up to 500,000 accounts were affected by the bug with up to 438 different apps potentially having access to private information. With low usage a continuing problem, Google then decided to gradually phase out the consumer version of Google Plus over the next ten months.

A second data leak occurred soon after, causing the company to bring forward the shutdown by four months. Significantly, the second leak impacted some 52.5 million users with names, email addresses, occupations, and ages exposed.

Consumer shutdown and business rebranding

The consumer version of Google Plus was shut down in April 2019. Google Shoelace was then launched three months, serving as a quasi-replacement for its predecessor. Shoelace aimed to bring together individuals in a community with similar interests, but it too was shut down after becoming another victim of COVID-19 social distancing.

The business version, on the other hand, was rebranded as Google Currents for G Suite users to facilitate better collaboration within organizations.

Key takeaways:

  • Google Plus was a Google-owned social network that operated from 2011 to 2019. The platform suffered from low usage and engagement due to convoluted sign-up processes and bundling with Gmail accounts.
  • Google Plus suffered two major breaches of privacy after bugs were found in its API. The first breach was kept a secret for six months, while the second affected over 52 million user accounts.
  • Google Plus for consumers was rebranded as Shoelace, a community-based meet-up service for like-minded individuals that was itself shut down because of COVID-19 protocols. Google Plus for business still exists in some form as Google Currents.


  • Launch and Google’s Ambitions: Google Plus was launched in 2011 as Google’s social networking platform to compete with Facebook. It was part of a suite of products to expand Google’s social presence.
  • Low Usage and Engagement: Google Plus failed to meet expectations in terms of growth and adoption. The platform suffered from low usage and engagement, with many user sessions lasting less than five seconds. The convoluted sign-up process and mandatory bundling with Gmail accounts contributed to its unpopularity.
  • Data Leaks and Privacy Breaches: Google Plus faced privacy issues with two major data leaks. In 2018, a bug in the API allowed third-party app developers to access user and friend data. Google knew about it for months before disclosure. The second leak affected 52.5 million users, prompting an earlier shutdown.
  • Consumer Shutdown and Business Rebranding: The consumer version of Google Plus was shut down in 2019 due to its declining popularity. Google Shoelace, a community-based meet-up service, was introduced but was later shut down due to COVID-19 protocols. The business version was rebranded as Google Currents for G Suite users to improve collaboration within organizations.

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