Look out Pinterest. Despite what you may have read, it seems Google plus is not dead after all.
Over the past 12 months or so, many bloggers (including myself) have written off the search engine’s social media “experiment,” with some saying it wouldn’t even see another Christmas.
But it seems a recent announcement from Google could be something of a voice from the grave.
Yes, that’s right.
While the rest of us (me) were preparing for the wake, Google has been busy, un-coupling Google+ from those clunky and unpopular functions, which made it so unpopular, with a view to better aligning it with what we actually use.
The formal announcement came earlier this month in a post titled “Introducing the new Google+,” in which Google’s Director of Streams Eddie Kessler outlined the basis of the re-imagined platform.
“Since we last posted, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say,” he says.
“There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster.
“Whether it’s 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 antique watch hobbyist, these are the places on Google+ where people around the world are spending their time discovering and sharing things they love.”
So, it would seem Google are finally prepared to concentrate purely on the things that actually work in the form of a more streamline, effective and user-friendly product.
But is this a new dawn for the beleaguered site or more of a case of the Emperor’s new clothes?
For starters, it’s much faster.
Google completely replaced the underlying code, embracing a “responsive design” approach that enables one implementation across all platforms.
The other big change is the previously mentioned emphasis on communities and groups over streams, as Google+ intends to be less about being a social platform and more about challenging existing providers by using its influence within millions of communities around the world.
Unlike Facebook, the new Google+ isn’t so much about letting the world know what you are up to, and more about sharing and digesting information with like minded users.
So rather than being a rival to Facebook and Twitter, think of Google+ as more as an alternative to Reddit and Pinterest – a place to talk about a specific topic among a particular community who can all post, comment and share to their hearts’ content.
What does it look like?
The new look presents a more stripped back feel, designed for easier interaction and to simplify the user’s experience.
The Home screen still shows posts from people you follow and communities you are a member of, but a new algorithm also highlights things that the Google suspects you’ll be interested in, based on your past on-platform behaviour.
The Communities tab is significantly different, offering a wide range of possible areas users might be interested in, and mobile visitors can enjoy a specially re-designed interface with more user-friendly options which is perfect for browsing when on the go.
So what’s next?
If nothing else, the new design will offer loyal Google+ users hope that there is life in the old dog yet, but it’s unlikely the redesign alone is going to boost Google+’s audience or user numbers any time soon.
Put simply the platform has probably missed the boat when it comes to posing a substantial threat to the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
Maybe if they had taken a more simplistic approach from the beginning they’d be in a competitive position right now, rather than adopting this make-do-and-mend strategy in order to try and keep up with the competition?
However, don’t write the obituary just yet.
Given Google’s ability to tap into just what it is we are searching for online everyday and exactly what it is that floats our boats (both collectively and individually) it’s possible that, over time, Google+ could build a stronger community and see their platform grow as a provider of great community engagement and discussion.
The fact that they haven’t given up on Google+ just yet speaks volumes.