Farewell, Google+, the Social Network With No Friends


Farewell, Google+, the Social Network With No Friends

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Google announced on Monday that it would be shutting down its social media service Google+. There was sorrow, panic, and heartbreak among its fanbase. All seven of them. It was revealed that a bug might have exposed the data of five lakh Google+ accounts to external developers. When the news became public, every person around the world had the exact same thought: There are five lakh people who use Google+?

When Google+ was born, it was available on an invite basis only, like Baba Siddique’s iftar party. 2011 was a different time: Men hadn’t been called out for sexual harassment, the thousand-rupee note was still in circulation, and India’s batting line-up had a middle order. Google was taking on Facebook and it was seen as the Manchester City vs Liverpool of the social media world.

“Are you on Google+?” “Do you want a Google+ invite?” were 2011’s equivalent of “Have you watched BoJack Horseman?” But in 2018, if you tell someone you used Google+, they look at you the same way everyone looks at Nokia phone users. Google+ was Google’s second attempt to tap into the social media market after Orkut, and for observers in the tech industry, it was like Hrithik Roshan replacing John Abraham in the Dhoom sequel – great things were expected. Google+ in its early days was one of the fastest growing websites in the world, but growth is not perpetual. Ask India’s economy. The excitement and euphoria lasted an entire… month.

Google+ became everyone’s gaon ka ghar. You built a house there years ago and now visit it once a year begrudgingly. The problem with Google+ is that you didn’t know what to do once you logged in – it was as confusing as the Aadhaar judgement. Soon a Google+ account became like a deodorant in India, everyone had one but no one was using it. And it became as irrelevant as development is to India’s national politics.

Just like demonetisation, Google failed to pull the plug on Google+ when it should have despite its continuous and repeated failure. Google+ got destroyed in the social media space like the Congress party in India post the 2014 national elections. WhatsApp was used for forwards and fake news, Instagram for travel and food pics, Snapchat for sending dick pics as we’ve recently learnt, and TikTok for whatever it is that people use it for. Google+ didn’t offer anything new or unique, much like Zee TV’s programming since 2003.

Google+ is dead, but the question to ask is, was it ever alive?