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Google+ Head Vic Gundotra Leaving Company (recode.net)
402 points by mikegreenspan on Apr 24, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 250 comments

> Former CEO Eric Schmidt admitted in an interview at the D conference in 2011 that he missed the boat on the rise of identity on the Internet.

> “I clearly knew that I had to do something, and I failed to do it,” he said. “A CEO should take responsibility. I screwed up.”

I think Eric screwed up in a deeper way that this quote admits. Google+ came up at a time of broader dissatisfaction with other social networks, particularly Facebook. From both UI weaknesses and social perception, I initially saw G+ gaining a lot of interest among disparate folks I'd loosely label "influencers". And _all_ of that interest was shot dead due to attempts to own identity by enforcing the use of real names[1].

There are very real reasons why "average" people need alternate identities online. In some cases, it's mandatory professional separation; your work persona shouldn't be conflated with your author persona, shouldn't be conflated with your close-friends persona, etc. Circles were interesting, but solved a different problem.

In this regard, I think Schmidt's big failing was analogous to the fable of the golden goose: he killed any chance Google+ had by trying to seize the golden eggs of online identity. This delayed G+'s adoption enough that Facebook in particular was able to react, improving both its then-primary web UI, make some privacy improvements, and significantly shore up its public perception.[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymwars [2] Not counting the rabid social-network and/or Facebook haters, whom cannot be satisfied.

My experience is that the Real Names policy was hated by a small but vocal and influential group of users. I never heard about it from any of my friends who aren't reading sites like HN. Those people still don't use Google+, but it's because none of their friends were there, they found Circles confusing, and they didn't see any real benefit to taking the effort to learn about it. Social networks have a lot of inertia for users who aren't early adopters. If they already are connected to all of your friends on Facebook, a new social network would have to be truly amazing (or Facebook would have to really screw up, in ways that "regular people" care about) to get them to move over. I think Real Names was a drop in the bucket compared to other issues.

  > I never heard about it from any of my friends who aren't 
  > reading sites like HN.
Anecdote: a decidedly non-technical friend of mine with the last name of "Star" had his Google+ profile disabled after having his name falsely classified as a pseudonym. The only Google+ service that he actually cared about using was Hangouts (a sentiment universal among my friends, it seems... despite its faults, Hangouts really is best-in-class as far as I can tell). The end result was that he missed out on spending time with his friends because of an unanswerable algorithm attempting to enforce a dubious policy. From a user's point of view, this is incredibly frustrating.

To this day, his Google+ profile picture is the same photographic proof that he had to send in to convince them of his name's legitimacy. His rationale is that if his profile gets disabled again, he can just point to his profile picture.

When I tried to register for G+ (I only tried it because my non-tech friends pestered me .. and none of them is still using it) it told me that I was not a person but a shop. And that I should please use their shop accounts or whatever. And the only way to tell it that I was not a shop but a person was to scan in a passport, which probably would have been read by someone later who would (maybe?!) have activated my account.

I cannot even start to describe the hate I had for G+ from that moment on. It only got worse when a friend of mine used an absolute fake name to register an account without any problems. What an UI experience. And if they didn't have insisted on "real names" it wouldn't have happened.

Google is incredibly bone-headed and if there's something wrong with your account, there is generally no way to fix it.

More than ten years ago, I signed up for Adsense - it didn't work. Despite using my Google account for a ton of stuff, I kept getting obscure error messages. When they changed the interface about 3 years ago, I tried again. This time, the UI sent me into a Kafkaesque endless loop. A few months ago I tried again, this time I was put into review and haven't heard from them since. I'm certain there is some horrible, deadly flag somewhere deep in the metadata Google keeps of me, but I have no way of finding out why or what to do about it.

The frustration Google casually inflicts upon its users is infuriating, and I'm not only talking about this account stupidity.

<b>Hangouts really is best-in-class as far as I can tell</b>

My S4 updated from gtalk to hangouts, and I loathe it. It now crashes quite regularly, sometimes multiple times in a single chat session, and included a stupid button that starts a video chat on my phone, a feature I have never wanted and never will want, but manages to get fat-thumbed, or randomly turn itself on when I am trying to communicate with someone.

I should have clarified: best-in-class for what my friends and I need, which is essentially simultaneous multi-user voice chat that doesn't require installing an external program (if they have Chrome, it doesn't require installing anything at all), works on all platforms, doesn't mandate a laborious microphone calibration on first use, and has pretty decent echo cancellation. We were just looking to replace Vent/Teamspeak/Mumble, rather than e.g. looking for a replacement for Skype. It's been invaluable as a permanent place for our geographically-distributed friend group to idly loiter and connect to whenever anyone has a free moment.

"doesn't require installing an external program"

I had to install a .deb to use it in Firefox on Linux.

I use hangouts on my note 2 and it works great. I don't run a lot of gadgets on my phone though.

I think hangouts killer feature is in the browser.

The real-name policy itself was only known by a small group of people. However, the idea that G+ would be a place for a your One True Identity was directly attacking Facebook, which is not the way in which Facebook was vulnerable. If they had built the entire product (not just the real-name policy) around the idea of pseudonyms or ephemeral identities or multiple identities like Reddit, they may have found more success (but this may not have been aligned with their high-level organizational goals for building G+ in the first place).

Google doesn't want to be reddit.

But therein lies the problem: people clearly want Reddit. Companies succeed when they find a significant niche where their interests happen to align with that of their users / customers in a significant way. When a company starts putting its own needs ahead of its users that's a huge danger sign for its future. Google arrogantly thought that they could put their own needs first and if they just shove it hard enough at people they can win with brute force. I think that's a terrible mistake.

Maybe it didn't topple facebook, but what other data do they have from it? Is searching this information fruitful in interesting ways? It might be.

About the Google+ vs. reddit, this is the best that I could find: https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=google%2B%2C%20reddi...

I'm not a Google+ user (at least not by choice), but as a redditor for 7 years that chart seems to show the correct trends (as far as reddit's growth is concerned, at least).

Ironically, Google inherited the precursor of Reddit, in the form of Google Groups, the interface to what's left of Usenet.

It's also done much to kill that -- the interface is abysmal (actually, so is G+, but that's another story). Even some early G+ support channels which were mediated through Google Groups got killed off. I'd posted some detailed feedback early on (2011) which, so far as I can tell, has been nuked from the face of teh Intarwebs.

Reddit isn't the end-all be-all, but it's damned good. And it carries far more regard and respect than its size would suggest. News items I'm reading about G+ discuss a total staff of over 1200 devoted to it (now largely being reassigned). Reddit's still in the <50 headcount as far as I know.

And yeah: I'd love to see global search (including comments), better tags, better moderation tools, a more powerful wiki, longer self-posts (10k char limit is a bear), and a bunch of other stuff, but it's really quite a useful site as things stand.

Much as HN, despite a pretty limited UI is, largely based on community and dynamics.

Reddit doesn't have photo albums or event organization or realtime video chat or a celebrity/Brand platform or product reviews or search engine integration or any sort of privacy controls or a (first-party) Android app with all these features or (for better or worse) a rich visual UI.

It's not that they should try to be Reddit -- it's that they should try something different. Big companies attack other big companies all time time, and it almost never works when the attack is head-on at the point of the competitor's greatest strength (things like Android are the exception, not the rule). The best way to attack a competitor is with a product that doesn't initially even look like a competitive offering.

Actually, I would read iPhone vs Android as not a true head to head. Androids have always trended towards budget and have generally been a shift towards allowing telecom crapware on them. Two of Apple's weaknesses. :)

Youtube is video reddit (or maybe reddit is text and image youtube). It's my understanding that youtube makes a great deal of money.

More generally, reddit is lots of user generated content that gets page views. What makes facebook's user generated content so much more attractive? The user graph? Have they figured out any good way to monetize that?

Google also doesn't mind offending Native American with traditional names http://www.buzzfeed.com/joeflood/what-happens-when-google-do...

I'm pretty sure reddit hasn't rejected a Native American's name.


I imagine at that point, the "Google identity" dictated what kind of "Internet neighborhood" they felt they had to situate their social network in.

But thinking about it that way, it seems clear that rolling out a product based on "what Google needs to offer" rather than "what people want" is recipe for failure.

But with their ownership of Blogger and YouTube, they were far better positioned to build a Reddit/Disqus/whatever than they were to build a Facebook.

If they had started with the concept of "we're going to build a unified social layer for all our content-posting platforms and then integrate that into a Facebook-like environment" it likely would have gone far better for them than what they did, which is the reverse (build a Facebook-like environment and then use it as a unified social layer for all their content-posting platforms).

Google+ could have been the new MySpace. They choose the Facebook way and directly attack them.

Btw. there is even a new MySpace. Is someone using it?

I don't use social media. Facebook, Twitter, the rest of them. So I wasn't ever a likely Google+ user. I do use Google Apps, Sites, and mail however, and what really annoyed me about Google+ and their big "identity" push was the insistence on trying to consolidate three separate Google "identities" together and sort of mush all of those things together. Those identities represent "me" in separate roles and responsibilites with separate organizations. There was no need and no desire on my part to have all of that merged under "one" Google identity. In fact I actively wanted to keep them separate. The amount of extra work I have to do to keep it that way (deleting cookies, maintaining separate browser profiles, etc.) is just needless pain they are imposing on me.

Quite. I even managed to land three top-of-the page HN posts on the same day on that topic: http://www.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/1qsnks/dont_loo...

That issue hit quite a nerve, and it's been commented on at length in some of the news discussions. Ron Amadeo at ArsTechnica most especially:


The social network hasn't gained the massive userbase it would need to rival Facebook, and the aggressive integration strategy has been universally hated by users. As Google gets bigger and bigger, it faces harsher scrutiny, and few things the company has done have been more disliked than Google+. According to the report, Google+'s YouTube takeover was seen as "a rocky move" even inside the company...

As a brand, Google+ is about at toxic as you can get.


As I'd previously commented answering Eric Schmidt's "My biggest mistake at Google was not anticipating social": No, Schmidt, your biggest mistake was failing to realize that vast hoards of highly detailed and categorized personal data are not only an asset, but a tremendous liability.


Even if it was that vocal minority that stopped Real Names, there were a lot of problems ahead for Google had they continued to enforce it.

Take the EU for instance. It might well be possible that, given Google's dominating position in the search and advertising markets, it is illegal in the EU for Google to _force_ people to give up an essential part of their online privacy. (Using your dominating position to force others to forego their rights.)

Usually, the EU takes some time before it gears into action, but if found at fault, the EU will make a company change its ways. So maybe somebody at Google caught the "bad vibes" coming out of Europe and decided it wasn't worth it.

"My experience is that the Real Names policy was hated by a small but vocal and influential group of users"

It was also hated by people who had real names that some damn fool at Google thought were fake like Native Americans[1]. You would think with a search engine they could figure this out. I am so glad we went with Office365 because I can only imagine what would have happened when half the student body's accounts got frozen.

1) http://www.buzzfeed.com/joeflood/what-happens-when-google-do...

The Real Names policy stinks. It misses completely legitimate (and innocent) reasons why people want to be anonymous sometimes.

That said, your other point needs to be trumpeted to any companies thinking about taking a run at FB. The reality is that FB has its annoyances, but overall it is good enough that it's not worth losing all my posts, photos, etc. that have become a "life mosaic", as well as, my network of friends to move to another site - and I don't have time to maintain more than one social network. The situation reminds me of enterprise vendor apps that my employer uses. Overall a particular app may have its warts, but it covers most use cases alright so that we aren't tempted to go to a competing app.

Real Names is the best illustration of how Google tried to copy FB instead of offering a better one. "Circles"? only sound of it is already too high-brow for average Joe. Have you heard a taxi driver using word "circle" to describe his taxi driving buddies?

AFAIK the real names policy is largely not in effect anymore, contrary to Facebook?

Nope, it bites people in the arse to this day. A month ago: http://www.buzzfeed.com/joeflood/what-happens-when-google-do...

> My experience is that the Real Names policy was hated by a small but vocal and influential group of users.

Another way of putting this is that most people don't need pseudonyms, but the people who need them really need them. Search for .e.g. "google outed me".

Google missed the boat on that, big time.

The thing is that these sites (as with many things) grow from a core of early tastemakers. In some circles these people know the hottest bands, the best new books, wear the coolest clothes, or know about the new restaurants in town before everyone else. In tech they know the best sites, and where they go the rest will follow. "People reading HN" might be a small minority in the grand scheme of things, but I would be willing to bet that they collectively have a huge influence on the web at large. They were the natural drivers of Google+, and they didn't bite. Meanwhile things have moved on from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc leaving Google+ in the dust. Do not ignore vocal and influential groups of users, even if they are small in number.

This is what happened as far as I could tell: the techie world (friends of Googlers) joined, then crashed head first into the Real Name Policy and told their friends to stay the hell away. It never recovered.

I think in the long term all the nerds, as you imply, that hated Real Names will be vindicated and it will be obvious that this enforcing people to spread their real names all over the web is a bad idea.

> And _all_ of that interest was shot dead due to attempts to own identity by enforcing the use of real names[1].

It was an understandable, safe, and wrong decision at the time.

Facebook's commercial power was widely attributed to the fact that for the first time, wide swaths of people were using their real identity online. With the investment that Google put into +, the risk of having another sea of MetalHead444s was high.

I'm just unhappy that they didn't take any really bold steps to differentiate themselves from Facebook, and instead went full Microsoft by attempting to replicate the UI.

"It was an understandable, safe, and wrong decision at the time."

That's such a good way to describe a bad decision. The accumulation of decisions with those characteristics will sink any company.

In addition to being safe, understandable, and wrong, it was completely out of touch. Did nobody stop to think why people would ever elect to use MetalHead444 over their real name in the first place?

The only explanation I can fathom was that it was a decision motivated by engineers and marketers rather than by anyone genuinely concerned about user experience.

The engineers -- the ones down in the trenches -- practically revolted over it.

The decision was purely from On High, i.e. managerial. It came down from the highest levels.

And that right there strikes me as a symptom of a deep problem.

I think the best use of executives is to support people in the trenches, because they're closest to the actual work. That support can include thoughtful questioning, advising, and mentoring. But when it becomes controlling, it often gets ugly.

I just happened to chat today with a guy who built a large and successful construction company up from nothing. He said that his philosophy was always to hire good people and support them. Eventually it was running well enough that he got bored with it and sold it to the employees. He's now starting an incubator for manufacturing businesses because for him the fun part is helping people get things going. I think he'll be successful, because handing down decisions on high is entirely uninteresting to him.

sounds interesting! who is this guy? or he prefers to be anonymous?

I'd feel weird naming him without asking. But if you want to read more about this sort of approach, there's a book called Servant Leadership, plus a lot of literature around it. It's also the basic approach in Lean Manufacturing.

Thanks for the lead.

Who strangely enough for people who presumably know a lot about the internet and online didn't seem to understand why people might have completely different online personas and identities.

I have friends from the pre Internet online communities (telecom gold and Prestel) who would probably not even know my real name as we went by handles I even have a dedication using that name in a booker (think uk version of the Pulitzer prize) shortlisted authors book about that time "cybergypsies" by Indra Sinha.

Glad to hear it. I apologize to Google's engineers for my uninformed implication.

I wish more had protested more strongly or simply walked.

I know it's easy to project actions on others, but really, that was a BAD decision.

Unfortunately, not everyone had that sort of mobility. Mortgage holders, people on visas who needed to find another sponsor (and couldn't just go anywhere) and the rest have a harder time moving on.

That has to suck: knowing something is rotten but having to stick with it due to external constraints.

If they had full freedom to move around in the company, it would have become obvious as people would have bailed from the project.

Can you write an article on Vic Gundotra's resignation and the problems at Google that needs to be fixed?

And that's why I now perceive Google to be rotten from the head.

Personally I feel, best of the companies can take rotten decision sometimes,specially when they are reactionary. IMHO That doesn't mean we can generalize it.

100% of Facebook's value is real names.

That is it. There are hundreds of other services for instant/asynchronous messaging, photo sharing, etc. but only Facebook knows everyone in my life by the same names I do.

I can discover and communicate with anyone I might have heard about in my real life on Facebook because (and only because) they use their real name on Facebook.

Discoverability by real name is the point of Facebook. There are certainly other social networks (i.e. Tumblr, instagram, HN) that people use as online personas separate from their real identities, but Google pretty clearly wanted a piece of Facebook's pie. Pseudonymous Google+ would have been an entirely different community. Maybe a more successful one, but not in the same space as Facebook at all, and not what Google was trying to do.

Interestingly, people use Tumblr as a much more intimate venue, in part because you just can't hold that many people's pseudonyms in your head - at my school, only fairly close friends got to know each other's Tumblr URLs.

> Discoverability by real name is the point of Facebook.

Yup, and it's also it's greatest weakness. Hence the abandonment of Facebook by millennials to communication mediums that are inherently private—SnapChat, Kik, and anything else that doesn't put their behavior on the Internet, Google-able in one hop by authority figures.

Facebook is great for middle-aged people with stable (boring) lives who want a digital scrapbook to share with similar people. Hence all of the photos of people's kids.

I think that's thinking about it the wrong way. Google's aim is to organise the world's information in a structured way and then capitalise on it. It seems to be that with Google + they had decided to use identity as a primary key to hang stuff off. They were determined that architecturally, they wanted it this way.... at almost any cost.

Safe? It threw the Internet into uproar, which continues today as they force YouTube users to either use their real names or create a Google+ brand page for their YouTube username. That doesn't sound like a safe decision to me.


(a) It threw a small but vocal corner of the internet into an uproar. Now many, many of those people were smart and had really thought about the issue and the problems it would cause, but the sad truth is that a vast majority of people really didn't care.

(b) Pretty much anything throws a small but vocal corner of the internet into an uproar.

Much of the majority follows the lead of that vocal minority. This is part of how Google gained supremacy in search.

I'm curious about how you're establishing that the people objecting to this are the same people who were early adopters of Google search.

I was an early adopter of Google search back in the late 90s but I'm not that bothered about what they're doing with plus (I'd rather they were handling it differently but I'll take it or leave it).

I do see that some of the people who are objecting are potentially significant voices - I tried to reflect this in my post by saying they were people who had thought this through - but sadly having a good point doesn't mean that you'll always win the argument, particularly where massive commercial concerns are involved.

My impression was that G+ was stymied by a bad go-to-market strategy. I'm sure the real names issue didn't help, but I'm not certain it had the impact you're suggesting.

Their go to market strategy was essentially the same as the Chinese government-run construction companies that build an entire city from farmland, cut the ribbon and expect a stampede.

Getting it right is complicated and I couldn't do it justice in an HN comment, but generally I think they should've focused on a specific winnable market and grown from there.

Fostering community is a fragile process. Google simply stepped in the brown stinky stuff far too often. The initial beta, the public release (too soon), the lack of features (no search ... from the Internet's leading search company?). Some huge reorientations of direction. A miserable client experience (it's a hugely bloated web page, and I still can't do more than a trivial amount on it).

Real Names, the SEO takeover, and the YouTube Anschluss were really only the icing on the cake.

The first drove me to kill my personally ascribed account and create one under this nym which I use in a few places online. The second largely dismayed me. Things looked up briefly a year or so back as search got more powerful and enough interesting content had accumulated to provide some actual utility to the site. Last May's redesign, the War on Words, and the YouTube Anschluss were all pretty awful.

I think that is really smart and makes a lot of sense. Facebook started out by servicing a niche, Twitter was used by tech nerds.

As much as I detest virtually everything Facebook, it's growth strategy from Harvard to Ivies to selective edus to all was great. From the get-go, it was the place to go to find a crowd more exclusive than the one you were in already.

That ended with mass-market availability, but it's provided steam to roll on for a while.

Google had an initial base which was, I think, the seed around which it could have grown a community but blew it by releasing publicly too early.

Among other failings.

Twitter took off once it got a critical mass of celebrities using it, and this fact was published in mainstream media. Stephen Fry brought in a lot of people; now it's Justin Bieber.

In all honesty I probably would have pursued the same real names policy if I had been running Google+. They were trying to avoid having it immediately devolve into the YouTube comments section - aka the scourge of the Internet.

I also think the real name policy is one of those things that we give too much weight too in analyzing the service. Lacking pseudonyms is not the reason "average" people have not used it.

The alternative to real names is not necessarily Youtube or 4chan. Reddit, HN, Fark, Mefi, Slashdot, and tons of other lard communities work fine with just usernames. The alternative to real names is moderation, policies, flagging/reporting etc. Abuse is always a problem in large communities regardless of real name or username policy and many different solutions exist for each type of abuse. Forcing real name usage was never the solution to any form of abuse.

It is possible, I agree, but Reddit, HN and others have much more active moderation than Google was probably interested in creating.

That's an entirely solvable problem, and numerous key G+ voices (Robert Scoble and Lauren Weinstein come particularly to mind) have long lambasted Google over the lack of suitable moderation and noise controls.

The effect at G+ was that there was a very narrow sweet spot for intelligent conversation -- you needed a large number (~1000 - 10,000 minimum) of followers to generate real traction, but past 100k, the ability to moderate threads was highly tedious. Lauren was (and is) heavy on the one tool he's got, the ban hammer, blocking people. The reasons often aren't that the individuals in question are doing anything particularly wrong, but that the dynamics given the other people likely to come to the thread will simply go haywire.

Or you end up with accounts such as The Economist whose posts are interesting but comments are invariably almost totally inane.

Google exhibited (and continue to exhibit) a profound lack of understanding of real community.

That carries over as well to G+ "Commnities" which are a complete fucking abortion.

Well,that's a problem for Google,not the users.

The slashdot model is the one to look at then.

Yes, but Google+ was supposed to be Facebook. Those communities are just that - online communities - not venues for real-world friends/acquaintances to interact.

And in the end, it turns out that YouTube comments with real names are just as terrible.

Totally agree that "real names" is a red herring. It irritated a small group of influential tech personalities, but as far as their influence may expand, it doesn't dictate which social network reigns supreme.

The reality is that once a service hits a certain critical mass it's almost impossible to extract. Facebook, like Windows, is now a permanent fixture in the tech community, and like Windows, it will only go away by slow, eventual deterioration made possible only by the gross incompetence of the company providing the software.

People don't care how much better your software is, the inertia will keep all but the most tech-savvy on the inferior solution as long as it provides basic semblances of expected functionality.

> the YouTube comments section - aka the scourge of the Internet

Two things: As far as I know most people are fine with using their real name on Facebook, so real names on Google+ would not have been the big problem, it was real names on Youtube made a lot of people angry. Also, now that people can comment on Youtube with Google+, the quality of discussions hasn't improved, it's merely become different inane stuff like "Hey x, check this out" and other excerpts from chat-like conversations that have nothing to do with the video playing.

> I also think the real name policy is one of those things that we give too much weight too in analyzing the service. Lacking pseudonyms is not the reason "average" people have not used it.

I don't think that anyone will argue that pseudonyms are important to the average user. However, they are important to a small but influential group of users. The type of early adopter that otherwise could've driven G+ upward.

I'll concede they're a small but loud group of users. I'm not convinced the type of people who will refuse to use a service because of a lack of pseudonyms are necessarily influential.

I would attribute Google+'s failures much more to their abysmal launch strategy, which massively restricted otherwise-excited users from ever joining Google+ until it became a barren wasteland.

But, Google+ showed that they were incredibly influential. The real-name policy was the primary narrative about Google+. Feminist bloggers complained it would expose women to stalkers and abusive ex's. Journalists wrote about the underlying racism of the algorithm assuming Anglo-Saxon naming conventions and highlighted people barred from the service for having names from a different ethnic or cultural background. Techies wrote about privacy and big brother.

The end result was every article about Google+ carried with it some form of controversy, negativity or problem. Joe average might not care about the real name policy at first, but they do care when they're told it's broken, sexist, racist and dangerous.

Perhaps I'm misremembering how the Google+ story unfolded, but I wouldn't exactly call feminist bloggers the most influential. They're loud and often make PR waves (the dickwolves incident comes to mind), but I don't think that's what killed Google+ (PA is still going strong). If what the tech community thought was incredibly influential, no one would be using Facebook or Snapchat due to privacy concerns (comments that so-often get brought up on Hacker News).

I'm not saying the real name policy didn't hurt Google+. I'm sure it did, but I think it could have weathered that storm if it wasn't weak in much more important areas like their launch strategy.

> I'm not convinced the type of people who will refuse to use a service because of a lack of pseudonyms are necessarily influential.

Or worth being influenced by…

Any time you use your real name, real HR or potential employer sees what you did. I do not want my chance to find work be influenced by random HRs opinions on what google play games I rated or which youtube videos I have in playlist. Nothing really controversial there, but people tend to be judgmental about details.

Forcing me to use real name means that I suddenly must be super careful about everything and control everything the same way as I control work. Not worth it.

Yeah, and Google+ launched at around the same time this issue was already getting quite a lot of negative attention, including in the mainstream press and media as I recall.

I think pseudonym policy depend heavily on what we set as 'average'. My parents and their work relations use their real name everytime, for everything, I never saw them use a pseudonym and they scorn me for using silly or unscrutable names.

On the other end my siblings, cousins, school friends and some more all kept their AOL/hotmail/yahoo mail or other chat service nickname, which for a reason or another was a nickname.

I think it really depends on how, when and for what someone first came to the internet. If it was for fart jokes, or activism, real name policy is a bummer.

I completely agree with you, but don't forget one other hugely important decision wrt to G+ that was controversial at the time: the refusal to release a full fledge API. To this day, the only real client for Google+ is the one made by Google. We've all come to accept it at this point, but back then Google was a company entirely built around the concept of APIs for all their services. No matter what the service, you could integrate with it. G+ was really the first time ever that they said "no, API for you".

Had Google skated around the identity issue AND enabled an ecosystem of 3rd party APIs similar to how Twitter developed, I think G+ would own the entire social network ecosystem by now. Instead, they've got a small piece of the pie, which some will claim is more valuable because it is full of "real identities" and completely controlled by Google, but to my mind is far less value because it intersects only a tiny cross section of society who use it.

The lack of external access to G+ remains a massive pain point. I'm fucking thrilled by the ubiquitous RSS integration at reddit -- it's pretty amazing.

For G+ I've got to go to the damned site (which is a browser bloat pig) to follow stuff. Which I avoid if at all possible.


The same cross section of society that has already given Google their most meaningful data.

Eric had already stepped down as CEO at the time the Real Names decision was made. That came from Vic, Larry, and the team leadership.

Schmidt was unapologetically selling G+ as "an identity service".

Gundotra continued that drive until it became clear that the userbase would (and did) revolt.

Yea, I knew it was Vic for a while now. BTW, I wonder if my emails to you helped.

Real Names didn't come from Eric. He was gone by the time G+ rolled out. Vic had a large hand in the real names decision.

Schmidt was selling G+ as "an identity platform".

Schmidt, like any good CEO, will always always sell anything his company outputs. You'll never find him criticising anything Google does, maybe in retrospect but never upon launch.

My point isn't that he wasn't criticising, but that he was explicitly endorsing the "identity service" angle.

Maybe, but by the time it rolled out, Schmidt was gone. G+ is pretty much all Vic.

For me, the number one problem of Google+ was that many who were excited to try it, couldn't (for over a year, if I recall?). We were a 2nd-class-citizens with a Google Apps account, rather than a Gmail account.

It was in the invite-only stage for less than 3 months.

You say that like it's a short amount of time. Three months is more than enough time for hype to build, peek, and wither, which can -- and did, I would agrue -- kill a social network.

I don't disagree; I think that slow rollouts of large products make sense from a technical standpoint (you can make sure that nothing breaks down at the large scale, and fix problems before they become a big issue), but I think that invite-only betas which last weeks or months can often hurt product uptake.

I was just clarifying that the invite-only stage didn't last more than a year.

A slow and phased community development worked really, really well for Facebook. Remember: it was deployed into a world already dominated by MySpace and with multiple rivals.

Slower, with a solid core community, would have been far better for G+ IMO. It opened up too fast.

Not only didn't it have a gelled community, but there were far too many UI / feature glitches and omissions. Many of which persist to this day.

But Facebook had a rather ingenious strategy for their slow rollout. They rolled out an entire college at the same time, so once Facebook was available for you, it was also available to a significant part of your friend group (the lifeblood of a social network). Google+ however just released slowly to a random set of people, so some people could get on, but none of their friends were there.

sjs383 is referring to google not allowing/enabling accounts on "Google apps for your domain" domains (vanity or business google accounts, essentially) to get on plus.

The easy nym fix is to create a "page" with your handle. The "page" can post, comment on YouTube etc. Not heavily advertised though, I only became aware of it when I had to give up my old YouTube account.

You can easily switch between main account and nym account and you only need one password.

This was created a few months after they got forceful about merging people's YT and G+ accounts (maybe one month before they turned off non-G+ comments?)

That "easy nym fix" still requires storing your real ID with Google.

That's a non-starter for many of us, as it's still available: to hackers, national security, subpoena processes, etc. See Bruce Schneier's recent Stanford talk.

Agreed. There are cases where this is not enough. For me (who are aware of the possibility of having multiple personas but is totally comfortable with national security 2014 edition to know about it ) and most ordinary people (who happily upload all their stuff to Facebook anyway) the current solution seems like a good and user friendly alternative.

If the fact that Google needs to know who their customers are isn't acceptable then people need to find other services. Google can pinpoint us pretty much anyway they are just being upfront about it in my opinion.

Actually it doesn't. You don't need a G+ Profile to connect a Youtube channel to a G+ Page.

That's the crux of the whole problem, G+ is so heavily associated with being a social network connected to real identity that having it manage the profile system is untenable.

Most Facebook haters could be satisfied. Just not by anything copying the creepy and unethical practices of Facebook.

When you come in as a secondary competitor, especially with something like a social network that is utterly dependent on network effect, you have to avoid making even small mistakes and you need several big advantages over the competition. G+ failed on both accounts. Mostly it was just another facebooky thing, and the few missteps they made turned out to actually be rather big ones.

Nevertheless, I think the biggest problem google made with g+ is thinking that it was necessary at all. Social can be important but not every major tech company needs their own brand of facebook, it's just not necessary from any perspective, even a business one. Microsoft made the same mistake when they tried to out-google google. That sort of thing is dumb, and indicative of excess vanity. Let google be google, let facebook be facebook. If you think you actually have a better product offering that overlaps with some other company, great, put it out there. But don't set it as your google to stand toe to toe product wise with all the other tech giants. Concentrate on your own strengths, don't try to be something you're not.

Maybe the argument is right, but Eric Schmidt was replaced by Larry Page on April 4, 2010 and G+ was launched on September 20, 2011. So the former can not be responsible for how G+ works. What he failed was to not have created a social network sooner.

I agree. Google + came out at the right time, maybe a little late, but it had some solid ideas - the idea of Google building a consistent social layer across their entire space was great.

The problem was that they screwed up so very much with it. It was far too opinionated, and at the same time obsessively asked permission for every agonizing detail. They soft-pedaled it and then backtracked on the promises implicit in this soft-pedaling.

Just such a complete mess.

To me, the big failure was (1) failing to let users properly manage their identity with pseudonym-anonymous aliases and whatnot and (2) failing to let content-posters manage their spaces. Let Bloggers and YouTubers and whatnot have better control of the moderation of their comment threads.

> There are very real reasons why "average" people need alternate identities online.

However alternate identities also allow for click fraud things and so on.

We don't know exactly why Google guys wanted so much to eliminate faked identities.

I still would prefer that it would not be needed, but that is not Google+'s problem to solve.

Vic did a pretty great job getting Google+ in decent shape, but am I the only one that finds the overall strategy among these properties confusing? I know that whenever I talk with a normal, non-tech civilian they are always confused by the service.

They have Youtube (where you can upload videos), Google+ Photos (where you can upload videos and stream as well), Google Drive (where you can also upload pictures and videos in addition to creating standalone Google Docs).

It would seem to make more sense to me that there should be a Drive where I store Photos, Videos and Documents, or there should be standalone Photos/Videos and then a separate service for Documents.

To me, these services should exist separately, but Google+ should bring them all together - meaning I can decide, from my photos/videos/documents what to post to Google+. If I want to post a video to the general public, I should post it to Youtube.

Obviously people may have different use cases (consumer vs. business) - but as someone using Google services as both a consumer and business, I find the tools confusing - and it seems to be even more confusing for my Mom.

You're definitely not the only one. Trying to understand the interaction between the various Google properties makes me feel like an idiot -- and yet I'm a Web developer with a CS degree who has been using the Web just about every day since 1994.

For example, have you ever tried to schedule a Google Hangout chat? As far as I can tell, there's no way to do it from Google Hangouts. You need to first sign in to Google+, then go to Google Events and create a new event, and then you have to specify that it's a video event.

Is it a use case they just don't care about? Is there no one at the company who's looking at this setup and thinking, "wow, this is confusing and we can probably simplify that"? Or is my brain just getting too brittle to make sense of it?

I feel that Google made better, more usable interfaces before they were taken over by designers. Modern designers are obsessed with removing features because that's the Apple religion. The new Maps is ruined because of this. Larry should fire all their designers and let engineers take over the interfaces again.

I find the new Maps to be so unusably slow, laggy, finnicky, and overall not an improvement over what Google Maps had been for the 4 years before.

And I can't figure out how to show traffic WHILE displaying directions or a location that I searched for. Seems like such a simple, commonly used thing... "Where is this place? What's the traffic outlook for the routes there?" Sigh

On the mobile version, zooming out (a couple of time, to some magic level) will suddenly make traffic appear (on the route and everywhere else), even while following the directions. I have not tried this on the desktop version.

I gave up on G+ because they kept making it more and more unreadable. Posts ended up being pictures wherever possible. Then they made things go horizontally and vertically in random sized boxes. You could switch to single column mode, but ended up with almost no actual text on the screen - http://www.rogerbinns.com/galleries/From%20Posts/plusunreada... shows in yellow to tiny areas of actual content.

I still don't understand how anyone actually consumes G+ content in non-trivial amounts. The irony is that Google Reader was all about consuming content, but nothing was learned from that.

I agree. I can't stand the low contrast gray typefaces, the new zoom buttons that replace the slider, the obnoxious, hyperactive search bar and the inability to rotate the map view (which should be trivial).

I agree too. Google tend to generate hard to use interfaces. Especially when you have small monitor, it is as if they did not eve tried them on such device.

That's an interesting use case, but the only time you're actually using Google Hangouts is when you're already in a conversation with someone, so I imagine that's not where most people would go when they want to schedule a call with someone.

When I think about scheduling, I immediately think about Google Calendar or Google+ Events, because that's where I would go to schedule any sort of event (with a video call or otherwise). Both of those places support adding a Hangouts video chat to an event.

Google+ became just like .Net of Microsoft. It's a umbrella for a number of confusing services forced together. Depending on whom to talk to and the favorite of the month, it can be different things.

It was social connect before. Now it's unified login. Next it's going to be whatever. Sounds awfully like .Net in the old days.

I think Vic formerly worked on .NET at Microsoft in fact.

Microsoft dropped branding everything ".Net" like a decade ago. .Net nowadays only refers to the .NET Framework.

It appears that many employees did not like working with him. This was posted on Secret "One of the worst execs I've ever worked with. Completely skirted the design process and got designers to do one off projects for him that would derail plans for weeks on end and kill team trust". Interesting, since there is much praise from Page.

He's a polarizing figure. I know people who used to work in Social (and elsewhere in the company) that hated working for them, and now they don't work in Social. I also know people in Social who really admire him as a visionary leader who's not afraid to take a lot of personal flack to get the job done.

I think this is common to many people with strong opinions and the confidence to act on them. Marissa was very similar: some people absolutely hated her, while others really respected her.

I'd be careful extrapolating an anonymous post from a single person on a public forum to "many".

I like G+ for the photo back-up from my Android phone. In fact, that seems to be the killer feature. I wonder what will happen to G+ if Facebook adds a similar feature.

The stream is interesting if you add enough people and organizations, but I find I can go for days or weeks without checking it. I know some people spend all day on G+, but it's unclear to me why.

Between FB, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a host of other comment boards and social network wannabes, it seems to me this market is absolutely flooded, and sooner or later, social network fatigue has got to set in and cause people to seek something that's more nimble.

Maybe there's an opportunity here for some kind of meta-network that ties together several of these sites. I would like that. A single stream, one login, see all your texts, photos, and updates at a glance. Then you can drill deeper into the particular social network if you care to take the time.

> I like G+ for the photo back-up from my Android phone.

See, I don't use any of Google's 'let us manage your plaintext data' services except for mail (because email travels in the clear anyway, I'm not too bothered by that).

If they would enable me to store my phone, tablet & app settings, Chrome passwords and backed-up data on their servers, encrypted on the client with a key known only to clients I control, then it'd be a killer feature for me.

Indeed, if they would bake crypto into their products such that all data were encrypted to the public keys of the intended recipients, then I think that they'd be going a long way towards making the world a better place.

But as it is, there's no way that they are laying a finger on my WiFi password, my web site passwords, my photos or any other data I create and do not intend to send to the world.

Chrome sync (including passwords) can all be encrypted on the client. Just go to settings -> Advanced sync settings -> "Encrypt all synced data with your own sync passphrase".

Also, if you're this worried, you really owe it to yourself to put in a little effort on your email. Email is often not transmitted in the clear, especially if you're using gmail already, and if you would just switch to a desktop client and IMAP or POP3 access, you can PGP to your heart's content.

I'm aware of the Chrome sync passphrase. If I used Chrome on Android (I don't—I use Firefox), would Chrome back my passphrase up to Google's systems? I dunno.

Is the crypto behind Chrome's sync anywhere near as good as that behind Firefox's? Not last time I looked.

I'm also aware that email often travels via SSL—but it's always cleartext to the sending and receiving hosts. I don't see that I'm suffering an especial risk with Gmail, since someone will always have plaintext versions of all mail I receive; I would be were I backing up data to them which I would never back up to anyone.

> I'm aware of the Chrome sync passphrase. If I used Chrome on Android (I don't—I use Firefox), would Chrome back my passphrase up to Google's systems? I dunno.

At least the docs claim that it's only saved on your device. You can believe it or not. There may be a way to verify that it's not being backed up with your normal Android data, but I'm not sure.

> Is the crypto behind Chrome's sync anywhere near as good as that behind Firefox's? Not last time I looked.

It's never been not good. Maybe you're thinking of back when they didn't have the option to encrypt all your sync data locally, just your passwords? It uses Nigori[1] and the source is all available[2].

This is a little old, but it compares browser syncing security: http://gregoryszorc.com/blog/2012/04/08/comparing-the-securi...

> I'm also aware that email often travels via SSL—but it's always cleartext to the sending and receiving hosts

Fair enough, but if you're using PGP, those hosts are only the actual sender and recipient (and anyone the recipient shares an email with, of course).

[1] http://www.links.org/files/nigori-overview.pdf

[2] https://src.chromium.org/viewvc/chrome/trunk/src/sync/util/n...

I absolutely agree with you. I even have a Nexus 4 phone, but with all of the core invasive tracking stuff turned off.

I want to control my data. Any data that gets stored at rest needs to be stored with PGP at Google's end and only I hold the key.

Until they can guarantee that and someone audits that and proved it to be true then I'll consider letting my data move off the device. Because fuck the NSA.

> I like G+ for the photo back-up from my Android phone. In fact, that seems to be the killer feature. I wonder what will happen to G+ if Facebook adds a similar feature.

You'll probably find this interesting, then: https://www.facebook.com/help/photosync

Google+ Auto Backup is still far ahead of Facebook's solution for me, though, because of its superior online photo editing and automatic touch-ups.

The comments on the Secret app[1] speculate that he might be joining Mozilla, Github or the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. What if he rejoins Microsoft instead?

[1] https://www.secret.ly/p/wxdnkdhjnsocjxwnizhdpacufc

Right. Or he could join Baby Gap, Toyota or the banking company Wells Fargo. I mean come on, those are pretty vastly different types of places ;)

People on secret are one subpoena away from being revealed.

I think that's just people suggesting companies that have had a recent people of hiring people that say stupid things, not serious speculation. [Brendan Eich, Tom Preston-Warner, Tom Perkins] Because vicg@ also says a lot of stupid things (and does a lot of stupid things).

You got downvoted for getting the joke:)

Google+ and Gundotra's lasting, and perhaps perverse, legacy to Google is the "social glue" that forcibly connects together most Google services.

That Google+ never quite managed to take on Facebook is obvious. A much bigger and intangible cost, IMHO, is the falling trust in much bigger Google products like search, YouTube etc. as Google+ was shoved down user's throats.

To wit, I don't use Google+, but thanks to its bundling I've also stopped logging in to any Google service on my laptop except on a strict need-to basis (for e.g. log in, update Google Drive doc, log out...or turn GPS on, use Google Maps, turn GPS off).

I find myself in the same situation, the more Google+ leaks out into their other products in an obtrusive way (ie. with "big fanfare") - the less I use those Google services.

I have however not seen many people near me, be so annoyed at this as I am. The most complains I hear about is the YouTube pop-up (that never seem to go away); Calling you out on choosing to use your real name instead of your YouTube-nickname.

Absolutely. I now block all of Google's cookies, and just don't bother with the few services (e.g. Docs) that I used to have an account for.

I'm an AdSense publisher, so occasionally I need to log in to see how much they've been screwing me. I just have an alternative browser for that.

> To wit, I don't use Google+, but thanks to its bundling I've also stopped logging in to any Google service on my laptop except on a strict need-to basis

This has been the unfortunate consequence for me as well.

A couple of months back I gave my feedback to Vic about how G+ is in a limbo zone between Facebook and Twitter, and that the needs of none of the use cases are met on G+. In his sincere attempt in trying to do his share of keeping the conversation vibrant on G+, Vic would (bad call, in my opinion) post pictures of his kids for thousands of his followers to see and comment on. I think this is where the non-clarity of the platform emerges. First of all, why would you post personal pictures of your family for thousands of strangers to see and comment on? And what do you do with the responses you get? Are you going to read/respond to all? What's the point of someone saying 'awww' or asking you a personal question, to which a response is not really warranted - as the askers are complete strangers. A lot of people follow others on G+ to get professional insights (as in this case) and Vic's usage of the platform as an example confuses the value proposition. My 2c.

Why would someone leave a company immediately if it was under good terms? Or is it just the case that this wasn't public until today?

Because any more time the person remains there is giving information to a potential competitor (and there's no point staying if you don't want to be there anymore)

I think Marissa Meyer gave Google a half hour notice.

Marissa resigned by e-mail and just didn't come into work that day.

Especially in the case of high level manager leaving voluntary, I would expect him to leave with proper few weeks notice.

Giving company time to shift responsibilities to other people and all that. Spending day or two explaining things to whoever will take his place.

Leaving right now should be nuclear option if you have no other choice or was treated very badly.

He probably gave notice and this just was developed privately until his time had come. It's wise to do this kind of thing in the background. Subordinates are more likely to question the decisions of someone that they know won't be around much longer, etc.

Because typically when execs leave, they tell their boss first, arrange a transition plan as a team, and then make the announcement after a plan is in place, effectively immediately. What's unfortunate is that this isn't how much resignations work.

If his reason for leaving given here is real, then they probably knew for about a month:


Thanks for the link. As an aside, I've always found it baffling that G+ URLs are a cryptic as the above, particularly as they are 301'd to be more legible after the fact. e.g. The above link is redirected to https://plus.google.com/+VicGundotra/posts/MFrDF3W4RJL

That page also weighs in at ~12MB.

370 million monthly active users. I wonder how many of those interact with Google+ by mere accident. Personally, the only time I post stuff on G+ is when I'm using another Google service (e.g. Youtube) and they post it to my G+ stream, often without my knowledge or consent.

"We’ve heard that there were tensions between Gundotra and others inside the company, especially surrounding the 'forced' integrations of Google+ into products like YouTube and Gmail. Apparently, once each of those integrations was made, they were initially being claimed as 'active user' wins until Page stepped in and made a distinction."


Even 100 million would be a healthy number. That's a lot of people to interact with. Maybe even more than enough people.

I wonder whether big is so desirable, after all. I notice that the quality of the comments has declined, especially on the news streams such as NBC etc. Whenever they put a news item on the G+ stream, there ensues a whole bunch of inane, pointless comments by people with made-up names, silly avatars, etc. The original G+ population seemed more intelligent.

As Vic departs, the elephant in the room remains - that the quoted G+ active population is probably one of the most inflated BS numbers ever.

From rating an app to commenting on youtube, to uploading on youtube, the content is posted to your mandatory Google+ account by default.

Remember the girl on Youtube who sang a song about how much Google+ sux, then the Youtube co-founder also said it sux? Those reactions should have been of major concern. Not unfixable, but you can't ignore teenage girls singing songs about how much your product sucks!

I don't understand why people have to try and read so much into someone leaving a company. High-ranking execs and employees change jobs all the time for numerous reasons.

>> High-ranking execs and employees change jobs all the time for numerous reasons.

They don't, that's why people are reading into it.

They really don't. What you just wrote is like saying "This is nothing out of the unusual. Cows turn themselves inside out all the time"


They really do. Anybody who's been at a big company sees it all the time. Most don't make news stories because they aren't at a sexy company like Google, leading up a division that's well-known among consumers.

You wouldn't hear about something like the head of fraud detection at American Express leaving his job. I've seen it before (not at Amex, but other large companies).

That's only because you don't read creditnews.com.

When a major exec leaves in my industry, everyone is talking about it on Monday, and lawsuits often ensue if they end up at a competitor.

non-competes are void in California.

Not based necessarily on a non-compete, but based on similar and concurrent projects, "trade secrets" and "proprietary architectures."

only up to a certain seniority level

[citation needed]

There are things execs do that line employees don't that can presumably make a CA noncompete binding, like, for instance, accepting significant consideration specifically in return for a noncompete. But I don't believe seniority is itself a factor that can make a noncompete binding.

“I’m also forever in debt to the Google+ team. This is a group of people who built social at Google against the skepticism of so many.”

Seems like the skeptics were right, no? And this is coming from a big fan of Google. Great company, but this didn't work out. Interesting that they give Vic credit for Circles. I thought it was someone else's idea, no? Great idea, they just didn't follow up on it.

IMHO Google+'s principle problem is that it's multiple efforts all under the same name umbrella. This is confusing to users and seems to have been confusing to Google.

It's a longer-than-twitter public broadcast messaging system/social network/photo sharing/single sign-on/half a dozen other things.

There's some great ideas in there. Having a subscription style feed of people I want to follow, and their long-form posts (including deep linking) is much more interesting to me that twitter. There's been some absolute gems posted on g+ that simply can't be represented on Twitter. But it falls down because all these important thoughtful posts are buried in my regular social feed.

Everybody seems to like the circles ideas for organizing our connections, that's a great idea I'm surprised still hasn't been really replicated by FB. But then I can't assert different public names/faces to different circles. So my work circle sees me the same way my demoscene friends. But I'd rather use a formal identity for my work friends and a goofy presentation of myself in the demoscene (with an old crazy picture of me from a party). But I really can't. Unifying my identities, along with my logins, wasn't a good idea. And thus I don't really use g+ for social network stuff because neither I nor most of my contacts don't really want to pay the switching cost from FB/linkedin/whatever else. So literally the major initial message for what g+ is when it was launched, I almost entirely don't use or get anything out of. I say this as somebody who really doesn't enjoy FB all that much, but recognize its importance in connecting me to people I know and want to keep in touch with.

and it goes on and on. Lots of good ideas, mucked up by bad execution and a muddled vision that doesn't map well to most people's needs. It seems like the pieces of the product that are the best bits, are the ones that are not as deeply buried into the morass. Hangouts is pretty good for example and usually works like I want it to (I usually only message people). But now I hear voice, which I use all the time, is about to get bungled up with hangouts. I bet I'll hate whatever the integration looks like. There are tons of people I use voice with that I have absolutely no desire to tie up with my google+ identity.

The integration is too tight. Rather than being a bunch of well branded products, all under a unified umbrella, it's like a bunch of products were stuck in a blender, ground up and then half-baked into a some kind of...whatever it is.

I think if you can't point at a product and describe in a brief sentence, it's too big of a concept and that will start infiltrating your development of the product. What is google+?

Why not "google+ personal news" and "google+ social network" and "google+ chat" and whatever else? Each of those is focused and simple and disjoint enough not to cause confusion.

This is the Frankenstein problem these type of apps have. You see it in stuff like SharePoint or G+, the horror stems from trying to do much, no matter how well you do the core things, the amalgamation is horrific to behold, unfocused, a sprawling tapestry of decay. People forget that Dr. Frankenstein selected the most beautiful parts to create the monster, it wasn't meant to be a horror it was meant to be a Promethean.

" How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! -- Great God! ... I had desired it with an ardor that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart..."

IMHO Google+'s principle problem is that it's multiple efforts all under the same name umbrella. This is confusing to users and seems to have been confusing to Google.

I wouldn't put it that way.

A way to manage multiple efforts in one place could easily have been appreciated.

The problem was G+ was an effort to mold/carve the multiple accounts people had with Google into a single Facebook like thing. And it worked by pushing people through no-opt-out rather than pulling people by giving them something flexible and desirable. You had to turn your Gmail into a G+ account, you had to turn your Youtube into the same G+ etc.

It's true that rolling this stuff into one thing resulted in a complete mess. But it's important to notice it wasn't just a combining, it was a bondage-and-discipline style imposition.

Exactly. G+ as a common social platform for the Google space was a great idea... but a platform can't be opinionated, it has to leave customization of the experience to the users and the content-developers that are hosting G+-based conversations.

It started in the wrong place, a Facebook converted into a commentary platform instead of vice versa.

>IMHO Google+'s principle problem is that it's multiple efforts all under the same name umbrella. This is confusing to users and seems to have been confusing to Google.

Totally agree with this. I made some effort and still can't figure out where photos I post to google+ go. I used to use the picassa page which was pretty good about making albums and sharing, now I just use Flickr.

plus.google.com/photos/<your ID>/albums/posts


Right on - for me, it is that they could not make the fundamental decision of whether or not Google+ was a place or connective tissue between places. I can only guess, but it seems to me like a reaction to Facebook - they felt the need to differentiate from them and thus created this awkward construct. As I mentioned above, I think the winning strategy would have been to define Google+ as a place - the place to share stuff from all your other Google apps/sites really easily - basically create a feed of all your stuff from across the Google universe.

They've got some of it, but it doesn't quite work (for me at least) because of small gaps - like the fact that Chromecast works with Youtube, but not with Google+ Photos - thus in order to use Chromecast to display the wonderful video I just took, I have to essentially download it and reupload it to Youtube. Google+ Photos likely leverages the same tech as Youtube, but they're clearly being developed separately and that just seems silly.

Other people have put the fault on designers - to me this is a failure of product management and ultimately management to pull together the various forces that I'm sure exist within Google. And I don't think that was easy and that's why I say that Vic has some measure of success.

Google+ is, for me, almost really good - but it falls down in enough places that I would consider switching, for instance, if Dropbox came up with a full office suite to match Google Drive (which they seem to be working on).

>> Everybody seems to like the circles ideas for organizing our connections, that's a great idea I'm surprised still hasn't been really replicated by FB.

Facebook has something called "Lists" to organize your friend groups which is very similar to circles on google+. https://www.facebook.com/help/friends/lists

Circles seems like a good idea - but I find I don't use them.

I agree, circles mandate additional cognitive load. They should've been implemented such that each user had 2-3 circles max, like "Work", "Friends", and "Family", and it was almost always invisible (meaning you'd almost always share with all). Prompting the user each time they want to post something and making them choose from their 8-10 circles greatly increases the friction of posting.

That, and the decision is one-sided. Say I want to post something publicly about some new technology. Do I post it publicly and have it go into my family's feeds where it will be considered akin to spam? What if one of my friends actually _is_ interested in new tech but I don't know it?

I get that it would be an added layer of indirection, but to allow each user to have multiple subject personas for posting and let others subscribe to said personas might have been more useful. As it stands, I err on the side of caution and post privately to the people I can best guess might be interested.

I think it would work better one-way if you could separate "visible to" and "posted to". I would like to post to "public" and "techy people", which would mean it appears in the feeds of people I don't have in my circles who have me in theirs, and people I have in my tech circle. It would like it to still be visible to people in my other circles if they went looking for it, but it wouldn't appear in their feeds.

I have the same issue. Most of my g+ usage was photos that I shared with family only. I also shared the odd tech post publicly. When I do that my family get weird 'you might have missed' spammy emails, which I have been questioned about several times. I.e. why are you sending me this 'crap' stuff I'm really not interested in.

> but to allow each user to have multiple subject personas for posting and let others subscribe to said personas might have been more useful.

Don't Pages let you do that?

I personally use them a lot. For example, I share immediate family-related photos and posts with the Family circle, general family stuff with the Extended Family, some stuff with Friends, some with Colleagues. It's useful and powerful feature, but requires skills similar to the email Inbox organization which some people seem to find too hard.

It's not that it's too hard, it's just not something I want to worry about. I think some people like to really organize things and some see it as a hassle.

For myself my inbox has essentially two folders. Inbox and Archived. My facebook lists is just friends and my google plus circles is just whatever the default is.

I don't want to think about who I'm sharing things with. I either share it with everyone on a social network or send it as an email to specific people.

Personally I never saw what the big deal was. They allow you to put people into lists, which you could already do on Facebook and Twitter at the time. But because they called them "circles" and visualised them as such, suddenly it was a radical new idea or something.

I would use them more if I could assert a different identity/profile for each one.

I think this is the crux of why G+ failed. When I first started using it, circles seemed like a killer feature. I divided all my contacts into work, friends, family, by location, etc. So I could share programming stuff with tech friends, but local stuff with local friends.

But, instead, I find I just share everything I care to share public. I think what people share is part of how they present themselves, and if I'm always in the context of being myself, with my real name and the same picture, then I'm going to share the same set of stuff.

Circles always seemed to me like something someone dreamed up while way too high, and nobody ever said "dude, this just isn't going to work."

Put down the crack pipe and step away from from the whiteboard.

Circles for incoming content are fundamentally broken as they don't allow topical categorization of content.

If I can subscribe to feeds, and set a preference for specific individuals on those feeds, I get a vastly superior information product. You can roughly approximate this via search in G+, but only roughly.

The lack of ability to follow people's topical posts (that is: show me +JohnDoe's post to SomeCommunity) was simply idiotic.

Reddit, subreddits, friends, RES dashboard, and RSS feeds give me much of what I was hoping for from G+. And a hell of a lot more utility.

> If I can subscribe to feeds

You can, if people create them -- Google+ calls named feeds "Pages". You add the Page (originators categorization) to the circle (receivers categorization) you want, and that's how G+ supports classification from both ends of the communication.

What I can't do is create a topic or keyword, and subscribe to that, with a preference for posts from specific individuals.

Nor can I subscribe to a Community, but only highly ranked posts (useless without downvotes), and/or of people I find compelling.

The Pages route is too many levels of indirection to be successful. Google and Silicon Valley understand that one click can be too much friction, let alone multiple, among several individuals.

I've never subscribed to a page. Hell, what a "page" is is utterly opaque to me (with 25+ years of tech experience).

G+ had a number of useful tools, probably Hangouts at the top of the list, but "Hangouts" UTTERLY FAILS TO COMMUNICATE TO ME what this is. "Group Video Chat" does. And that's what it is.

I've said before and I'll say it again: that should be spun out as its own product, and ultimately be geared to take on WebMeeting and related products.

Edit: Additionally: reddit has ubiquitous RSS. You can tag '.rss' to virtually any URL that's a valid Reddit page (front, subreddit, user, search, URL search etc.) and get a feed based on that. You can also subscribe to specific posts, which is pretty awesome -- through reddit's own notifications system (which blows Google's out of the water).

> G+ had a number of useful tools, probably Hangouts at the top of the list, but "Hangouts" UTTERLY FAILS TO COMMUNICATE TO ME what this is. "Group Video Chat" does. And that's what it is.

Group Video Chat is a function of Hangouts, but its not all what Hangouts is -- in fact, its the second key feature noted in most Hangouts marketing. (Hangouts integrates iMessage-style individual and group messaging and group video chat and live broadcast video, "Hangouts on Air").

> I've said before and I'll say it again: that should be spun out as its own product

It pretty much has been for a while -- its got its own mobile app; its directly linked for actions from Gmail, etc. You can get to it through the G+ interface, but its not really tied to G+ as a product (vs. platform) now.

> and ultimately be geared to take on WebMeeting and related products.

That's actually one of the many marketing angles Google and its partenrs (Vidyo, etc.) are already taking with Hangouts and offerings integrating with Hangouts.

Google+ has it's users, but to me it always seemed like the ultimate example of building something no one actually wanted.

Reminds me of the post on "Mac Pravda" after Steve Jobs shitcanned the Newton division. The Google+ version would go something like this:

"Maximum Leader Page declares total victory of Google+. Workers to report to railyard at dawn for reassignment."

Google+ is to Facebook, what Bing is to Google Search.

It wasn't really going to work, much like the Bing. There were simply too late to the party as were Microsoft or Yahoo to 'modern' search engine.

I only hold Vic responsible for messing too much with the web design of Google+. Jesus, no one changes underwear so often as they would UI.

In the end, the failure of missing the social bandwagon solely relies on Eric. Because Vic was working on the mobile side (I think) when Facebook was kicking in.

Last week, I've posted this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7598111

Last week! :D

Personally, I don't think Google+ should be abandoned, but I do wish some of the problems, such as the real name policy, can be fixed.

Eric Schmidt said in a December 30, 2013 Engaget interview "my biggest mistake at Google was not anticipating social".

My response at the time: No, Schmidt, your biggest mistake was failing to realize that vast hoards of highly detailed and categorized personal data are not only an asset, but a tremendous liability.

Or as I put it: "Schmidt: My biggest mistake is still not realizing my biggest mistake"


Oh, good. Vic, please make sure that a) you don't miss the door and b) you take away the comment function of youtube with you.

17 comments (as of this writing), and about 1/3rd are grayed-out due to down votes.

Ergo, there are some pretty strong opinions about Vic.

Alternately, they are low-content comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7606127 .

One might say that low-content comments will tend to come in a topic that people feel very strong opinions about. I think this is true.

There A LOT of downvoting across all HN threads recently. In every single topic there are comments upon comments that are in gray and barely any actually deserving to be there.

These aggressive downvoting sprees also seem to coincide with that change in HN stewardship from few weeks ago.

Your wording suggests that maybe you didn't see sama's announcement about the change we made to count more downvotes [1] or any of my recent comments about it.

People can reasonably differ, of course, but I don't agree that barely any negatively scored comments deserve to be there. I look at all the negatively scored comments, and the vast majority are either not substantive, not civil, or both.

It's true, though, that some substantive, civil comments are getting unfairly faded out. We're asking users to give those a corrective upvote when they see them. This is a longstanding HN practice. It usually only takes one or two corrective votes to get a good comment back to par, so every user can make a difference.

Overall, this experiment appears to have succeeded in addressing the epidemic of highly toxic comments. That was our main goal, because those had increasingly been poisoning HN. That doesn't mean, though, that every other effect has been good. If rallying the community to do more corrective upvoting doesn't turn out to be enough, we'll eventually take other measures.

All: please don't add comments complaining about downvotes, though. It just adds noise.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7605973

I won't complain about downvotes, but I would like to request a feature. In a manner similar to 'showdead', I'd like to be able to disable graying.

Here's why: when you gray out a comment to the point of illegibility, as is happening more and more, that only makes me want to read it more. So I end up paying more attention to downmodded comments, not less. Somehow, I don't think that's what you were going for.

I would rather have the option to judge comments on their content, and not their color.

That's a reasonable request. I've added it to our list.

Thank you for at least taking the idea under consideration.

I've more than once wanted to create a browser plugin that basically hides the voting system from the person running it. i.e. all comments are the same color, and top level ones are sorted randomly on the page - there are some hot-button issues where such a feature would be valuable.

> highly toxic comments

I really don't see any of grayed out comments in this thread as toxic, leave alone as highly toxic. There are some lame jokes and one-liners, but they could simply be put at the bottom of the page without a slap on the face that is the gray color. Comment authors can see their negative scores and that's a signal enough for them to mend their ways, don't you think?

Oh, I didn't mean that any of the comments in this thread were toxic. I meant that HN had a systemic problem with toxic comments that badly needed addressing, and this downvote change is one of the ways we addressed it.

As for this thread, the faded-out comments I'm currently seeing are not toxic, but they also don't seem like good HN comments (defined as: substantive and civil) to me either. People can reasonably disagree in these cases—that's why we're encouraging the corrective upvote as a community practice.

There might not actually be an increase - dang said they increased the effect of downvotes recently.

I said before this was on my wishlist too.

I think had Google taken the approach of 'what do we have that Facebook doesn't?' vs 'what does Facebook have that we can obtain?' would've resulted in a better product (as far as value proposition goes). There was a lot of opportunity to create a unique experience, and that simply didn't happen.

When I get notification that one of my friends (who is on Facebook full time) has joined new on Google+ after all these years, that shows that Google+ has failed miserably to reach the mass. I don't use Hangouts these days. Its only Facebook messenger (on Android/desktop).

This post was meant to inform of Vic's departure from Google. It suddenly became a slug fest of Google +.

I am really curious what he will do next.

I am just a light user of G+, FB and Twitter. That said, I enjoy G+ the most.

Xiaomi could do with a social network.

"He spent his last hour at the company thanking each Google+ user personally."


He's been there nearly 7 years.

Sorry if I'm asking a stupid question, but:

How come all these "internal memos" always leak? Is it fine to share an internal email without getting in trouble at a public company?

Did anything leak in this case? The quotes in the article are from public Google+ posts by Vic Gundotra and Larry Page:



They're written to be leaked. They are very effective press releases without the costs of going through a wire.

In some cases, the wording is changed so HR can lock down who sent it out, and then discipline that person.

Perhaps 99.9% of them don't leak.

Politics you know the 8th layer of the OSI stack :-)

Normally some one has a line they want to run and have their friends in the media to spin stuff to its the same in politics.

I'm laughing so hard at this. I'm definitely stealing this and using this later!

It's impossible to keep a secret among thousands of people. Whoever sends a memo to everyone@bigcorp must assume that it reaches dozens of journalists' buddies, moles of the competition, perhaps even spies of foreign nations and definitely hundreds of folks who will bellow about it in bars in the evening.

How do you know they all leak?

Is Vic moving to another company?


How is it an "exclusive"? it's all there in public posts:

Vic: https://plus.google.com/+VicGundotra/posts/MFrDF3W4RJL

Larry: https://plus.google.com/+LarryPage/posts/A2gm48nzitx

The "exclusive" article was posted at 10:16. Larry's post, quoted in the article, was posted at 10:18.

They had the story under embargo... looks like recode posted the same time as Vic did.

"This is a group of people who built social at Google against the skepticism of so many.”

Well, he does have a sense of humor. They sure built it, I see many obscure names ranking on search engines...only to see an G+ empty page (along with a Youtube one--also empty. Looks like the Android signup process.)

There plans to rename the service Google- reflecting to the lack of interest of the public using the service even after forcing youtube users to have an account.

Pushed out for sure

I guess there are challenges more interesting than cat pictures to be solved elsewhere.

G+ failed coz of a simple reason, Hubris.

Google tried social without a real name policy (aka Buzz) and it didn't work. Google+ has better content.

I don't know how you can compare them. G+ has had a massive support from being tied into every other product, in some cases taking features people already use and making G+ mandatory for continuing to use them. Not to mention getting tied to search such that not having a G+ presence could significantly adversely affect your SEO. Buzz certainly had its problems but it doesn't mean G+ was the right way, or that real names had anything to do with the difference.


Can he take Google+ with him!?


you mean you had hopes that Google would use a unique account for every application again? Or that they use a different commenting solution in every app?

Sorry but that will never happen. If you're lucky they remove the '+' at some point.

Well, I hope at least that the privacy policy finally changes to comply with EU privacy laws.

Google+ should have launched secretly and conservatively, instead of big announcement and smash/crash into every feature. There are some aspects of it that are very appealing (mostly the nonsocial ones...) that I find useful, but due to my initial repulsion to the 'major change' I am less likely to invest in using.

The big announcement was fine. The problem is they hardly let anyone in after the big announcement. I remember there being a huge hype for Google+ when it was announced. But almost no one got invites, and those that did couldn't do anything on it so they quickly lost interest. It's hard to get excited about a social network when none of your friends can be a part of it.

Yeah, in hindsight Facebook looks especially clever in terms of how they managed their initial roll-out. Going university by university meant that they got to gradually ramp things up infrastructure-wise, and created the I-want-it-because-I-can't-have-it effect that I think a lot of companies go for with phased roll-outs, invitations, etc., but because any given school would get it all at once, as soon as your school got it, most of your peer group would also get it at the same time, which avoided the chicken-and-egg problem Google+ experienced.

Total agreement as I just posted above. A slow and staged rollout for Facebook worked great. In large part because it started with a small, well-suited, and high-status user base (Harvard, Ivy League), and expanded from there.

Into a world already dominated by MySpace and with plenty of other social network contenders. Including Google's own Orkut, Buzz, and Wave.

g+ was garbage from the start and could not compete with facebook. And anyone who used facebook know how trash it is... In terms of UI. But google made it worse experience.

Google will try to recover now :)

Yes, "he" built Google+ from nothing.

The guy who "built" my house never lifted a hammer. I think our egos can take the abbreviated form of "assembled/managed the team that built G+" in stride. Context, dude.

You paid someone to build you a house. Therefore you built the house! It wouldn't have happened without you to pay, would it?

It's not dishonest, it's just shorthand. Context, dude.

From nothing to what exactly?

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