Critics have bashed Google+ for not competing more aggressively with Facebook, which has more than 1.3 billion monthly users. However, Google CEO Larry Page said a few months after the company launched its social network that Google+ was more than another social player. Google+, according to Page, was developed to transform the entire Google experience.
Integrating Google+, or pieces of it, into other Google services should embed identity and sharing into all of the company's products, helping to understand what its users want, when they want it. That hasn't been a pie-in-the-sky vision. Company execs have put that plan into action, integrating Google+ with the Google Apps cloud-based office suite, while also adding the Google+ Hangout feature to Gmail, the company's popular cloud-based email service.
That overall vision is expected to continue. "Fundamentally, there's a vision for what Google+ is and how it connects a lot of their properties," said Scott Strawn, an analyst with IDC. "It's an important part of their strategy. I don't think that strategy goes away because Vic has." Google+ may not be going away, but that doesn't mean changes aren't coming, either, he added. "I would be very surprised if there weren't changes."
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said Gundotra's departure was a blow to the company. "Gundotra was able to do what few people at Google have been able to do, and that's connect externally with people," Moorhead said. "His passion was evident and will be hard to replace. I can't characterize this as nothing other than bad news for Google."
He added that he expects changes at Google+, if, for no other reason, than because incoming executives like to leave their mark. That doesn't mean they have to be negative changes, either. "I think it's premature for users to be worried," said Moorhead. "There just is no need to think it's in trouble."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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