Friday, October 12, 2018

Consumer Version of Google+ Platform to be Shut Down Over the Next Several Months

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Social media is an important aspect of most people's lives. For some, social media is a way to keep up with what's happening in the lives of their friends and family members. For others, social media is a platform by which they can advertise their business or find the latest news updates. Although each platform tries to compete with others to some extent, the different platforms tend to attract different types of users, and often users will have accounts on multiple social media sites. LinkedIn draws in job-hunters and business professionals. Facebook and Twitter tend to be for general connectivity, although the former is more for friends and family, while the latter is more general.

Google+, while not on the same level of popularity as Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, filled a similar niche, intending to connect users and improve social media reach through Google's impressive search engine optimization algorithms. Unfortunately, according to Sam Dean's L.A. Times article, SEO wasn't enough to keep the users engaged. Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, recently announced that Google+ is getting wound down over the next several months. The company expects to have the social media platform completely shut down by August. This week, a Wall Street Journal article came out claiming that Google discovered a security breach on Google+ months ago, and the company never informed its users. Some analysts believe that this breach in customers' trust could be what brought about the announcement on Monday.

However, it seems very likely that the privacy breach (although it may have been the last straw) was not Google's main motivator for shutting down Google+. The real reason was probably one of simple economics. Google+ just wasn't bringing in enough revenue. Social media platforms, since they tend to be free to use, bring in money by selling advertisements. Advertisers will only pay a company if they can see that the number of potential new customers justifies the cost. If a company can pay Google a set amount of money each month for advertising on Google+, and be guaranteed an increase in customers and sales, then they will gladly make that leap. However, if they know that 90% of Google+ users spend less than 5 seconds per session, the company is unlikely to believe that their advertisements will ever be seen, so they will be unlikely to put an advertisement in the first place.

Although the consumer version of Google+ is getting shut down over the coming months, Google is still planning to keep up its enterprise platform, through which corporate customers interact and provide information that can be integrated into Google's other features, including Google Maps. It's impossible to tell which of the issues (low user rates or recent privacy concerns) really made Google finally flip the switch and shut Google+ down, but other social media platforms may soon follow suit. Due to several recent issues with Facebook's handling of user data and bugs in their operating system that allowed hackers to access the same data, governmental agencies like the Federal Trade Commission have stepped up their levels of oversight. Even the House of Representatives and the Senate are getting involved, looking to investigate and improve laws to keep data safer than before.

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