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For a long while there, Google+ was the bad college party: lots of shiny things, maybe some beer, but nobody showed up. You could join, and add people to your circles, but you'd be all alone in an empty room. Google, wishing to compete with Facebook, was saddened by its lack of popularity.
Then Google turned Google+ into a prerequisite for many of its other services, the most notable of which was the forced YouTube integration, which backfired greatly. It turned out that people didn't want their real life identities plastered on their YouTube comments and playlists.
Late last week, the head of Google+ announced, on the social network, that he was leaving the party. TechCrunch followed up with an inside scoop, noting that Google was gutting the division. What does this mean for the future of Google+ and for their customers' privacy?
It's Not Dead
According to TechCrunch, Google+ isn't dead dead. They aren't dead bolting the doors and turning off the servers, like Google did with Buzz (the abomination that was the company's first attempt at a social network) or Reader (the RSS client).
No, the service will reportedly continue to serve as a "backbone" of other Google services. Whether this means it's a glorified log-in button (a la Facebook, Google, and Amazon's "sign in with" button on third-party sites), a repository for Google to collect data from you whenever you use any of its services (this seems more likely), or a dilapidated double-wide trailer that never gets renovated remains to be seen.
Whatever happens to the service, don't expect it to become anything more than it is at the moment. According to the report, Google is gutting its Google+ team by moving its Hangouts (the video chatting portion of Google+) and Photos (image storage and editing) teams to the Android division.
Other speculation includes a shift of additional Google+ team members to developing mobile apps.
One truly notable development, from a privacy standpoint, is that the mandatory Google+ integration policy may be ending. Instead of having one's identity pasted on everything, Google+ may just serve as the "sign in" button, with a separate identity on the other service. (Think aliases on YouTube, as a strong possibility.)
Google+ may not be dead, and it may live on as a lesser service, but gutting the staff means one thing: zombie. On the bright side, that means your firm has one less network to account for in its social media strategy.
Were you Google+'s only user? Tell us about it on Facebook, since, ya know, that's where everyone else is.