Google Pulls Plug On Failed Google+ Social Network After Data Breach

Google is pulling the plug on its failed Google+ social network, intended as a competitor to Facebook and Twitter, after it uncovered a data breach on the platform last year.

The closure is part of a broader spring-clean that sees the company doing away with services including a popular inbox organising app and its URL shortening service.

Google launched Google+ in 2011 as its fourth attempt at a social network, and aggressively pushed the service, integrating it with Gmail and from 2013 forcing YouTube users to use it to post comments on videos.

Those wishing to review apps on Google Play were also obliged at one point to sign up for a Google+ account.

Data breach

But users found the interface confusing and the network used some unpopular policies, such as a strict “real name” rule that shut down accounts of those who used pseudonyms.

Such shutdowns at times resulted in people being locked out of other Google services, such as Gmail.

After Google+ founder Vic Gundotra left the company in 2014, Google began to separate the network from other services, running sucessful features such as Hangouts and Photos as standalone tools.

It also stopped requiring users to post comments on YouTube and Google Play via Google+.

But the network continued on in the background until last year, when Google discovered that bugs in the way Google+ was set up had made personal data on up to 52 million users accessible to third-party developers.

At that point Google was happy to admit that Google+ was rarely used, saying that 90 percent of consumer user sessions lasted less than five seconds.

In a recent message sent to users, Google reminded them it would shut down the service on 2 April, and would begin deleting data, including photos and videos.

“No other Google products (such as Gmail, Google Photos, Google Drive, YouTube) will be shut down as part of the consumer Google+ shutdown, and the Google Account you use to sign in to these services will remain,” Google said.

The Pixel 2 XL. Image credit: Google

‘Sunset’

Google is also shuttering several other products and services, including Inbox by Gmail, an app launched in 2015 as an alternative way of organising Gmail messages.

A number of the app’s features have now been integrated into Gmail itself – though not all – and Gmail said it was shutting down the app at the end of last month.

The Goo.gl URL shortener, launched in 2009, was shut down on 30 March, while the messaging service Google Allo, launched in 2016, was cancelled as of 12 March.

Google has also stopped selling its Pixel 2 and 2XL smartphones via its online shop, indicating supplies of those handsets are also likely to disappear from shelves before long.

Google launched the Pixel 3 range at an event in New York last October, highlighting features such as an AI-powered camera.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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