The rumors are true: Google is breaking its Streams and Photos into standalone products, to be managed under Bradley Horowitz, as he announced on Google+ earlier this week.
Horowitz didn't specifically mention Google+ in his post, but the writing is on the wall. Considering these two products make up much of the Google+ network user experience, their separation pretty much spells the end of Google's foray into social.
Google has given a lot of clues pointing to the demise of its social network over the past 18 months, including the shelving of mandatory Google+ registration when signing up for new Google services, the death of Authorship, moving much of the Google+ team to Android when G+ godfather Vic Gundotra left the company.
Even so, Google+ had continued expanding some services. For example, it wasn't that long ago +Post ads were made available to all advertisers.
Maybe Google hopes to continue using Google+ for advertising only? It seems ludicrous – without a social network, where's the audience to make it worth it for businesses to stay? Ah, there's the beauty of Google though; it was never just a social network. It's primarily an advertising network, then a search engine.
Sure, the social aspect of it would be a ghost town (as we've been proclaiming since its earliest days), but they have such reach across Search, YouTube, Gmail that it may not matter. Google+ was never getting the social engagement and activity Facebook enjoys, but their ad business is still exponentially larger and more lucrative.
If you take Photos and Streams away, there's really not much left to interest users, is there? Hangouts already became a standalone app in the fall. With this latest announcement, it's crystal clear Google has abandoned their plan to build a social network to rival Facebook.
Google+ will now join a host of products that have been killed off before it, in the Google Graveyard. We've said goodbye to Aardvark, Google Buzz, Labs, Google Answers and more.
That's what's amazing about Google, though. They take massive risks that don't always pan out, but they are free to try.
Their plans for the network always seemed somewhat patched together – often, it seemed they were trying too hard to be like Facebook and not getting it quite right. The parts they nailed, like Hangouts, aren't integral or exclusive to the network anymore. Taking on Facebook for the social media heavyweight belt was probably their most ambitious effort to date, but also their most publicized and notorious failure. The concept wasn't bad and you can't blame them for trying – it just never came together.