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Google may have sầu given up on its official social service, but it never really left the underlying ambitions behind.

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Google / JR Raphael

Don"t look now, but Google"s getting inlớn social — again.

Actually, let me rephrase that: Google"s been getting inkhổng lồ social for a while now. It"s just been doing it in a less lofty, more piecemeal manner than what we"ve seen in the past.

Google officially pulled the plug on its high-profile Google+ service in the spring of 2019, as you may reHotline — though, interestingly enough, it actually announced the timing of that shutdown exactly two years ago today. At the time, it seemed lượt thích the end of Google"s social ambitions. But it"s becoming increasingly clear that wasn"t entirely right.

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Before we get into lớn the present, we need khổng lồ briefly revisit the past — because it"s critical context for what we"re seeing play out right now. So first things first: Google+ was created, by most counts, as a direct response to lớn the threat of Facebook & folks spending more & more of their online time within its closed-off walls. As author Steven Levy put it in his thoroughly reported 2011 book, "In the Plex":

That March , Urs Hölzle sounded an alarm that evoked Bill Gates"s legendary 1995 "Internet Sea Change" missive sầu to his minions at Microsoft. Just as the internet threatened Microsoft baông xã then, in 2010, the sea change to lớn a more people-oriented internet — social truyền thông media — was becoming a problem for Google. Hölzle said that the challenge required a decisive and substantial response, involving a significant deployment of personnel — right away.

What followed, Levy reported in other outlets, was an explicit discussion of the challenges Google faced from other companies — most notably Facebook — & how the company needed to lớn respond to lớn those threats if it wanted to lớn keep its future secure.

Singhal spoke passionately about how the internet was increasingly organized around people, urging Google khổng lồ dramatically exp& its focus to create a hub of personalization & social activity. Singhal believed that Facebook not only was ahead in that realm, but, worse, it was building an alternative internet with itself in the center.

And thus Google+ was born.

We all know how that story ended, of course — in part because, uh, we just talked about it like 60 seconds ago. But fast-forward to lớn today, & what vị we see once more? Yep, you guessed it: Google building systems designed to lớn encourage you to stiông chồng within its own ecosystem when you want khổng lồ giới thiệu something instead of instinctively hopping over to lớn a more traditional social service.


It"s been happening on some màn chơi for quite a while, actually, though it was one recent launch that really made it cliông xã in my mind: Google"s addition of a full-fledged social stream within its Maps apps for both Android & iOS.

Ahem:

The feed shows you the lathử nghiệm nhận xét, photos, và posts added khổng lồ Google Maps by local experts & people you follow as well as food & drink merchants, and articles from publishers. ... brings together helpful local information & tailors it khổng lồ your selected interests.

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Hmilimet...why does that sound so familiar? Oh, right: because it"s essentially a social network — just a smaller, purpose-specific one that"s masquerading as a mere feature.

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Google

But that"s just one tiny little niche area, right? Maybe — but then you start thinking further, và you realize that Google"s quietly been adding similar sorts of social elements inkhổng lồ other areas as well. When you want to lớn share photos or videos with someone, for instance, you don"t have sầu lớn post "em over to whatever social or messaging service you typically use; instead, you can just share "em directly with any number of other people as part of an "ongoing, private conversation" in the Google Photos phầm mềm. Heck, you can even like or phản hồi on the stuff other people share!

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Google

So...what is it? Yessiree, Bill: it"s another small, purpose-specific social network — a place where you can cốt truyện, interact, and communicate without having lớn venture away from the phầm mềm you"re already using.

And the saga doesn"t end there, either. The same basic thing can be said for the new version of Google Pay announced a few weeks ago — an app that"s now "designed around your relationships with people & businesses," as Google explains it. The product is "built around your relationships," as an executive sầu in charge of the effort put it in one interview: "All your engagements pivot around people, groups, & businesses."

To that over, the new Pay tiện ích actually includes threads in which you can communicate with individuals, groups, và even businesses whilst thinking about money-related matters.

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Google

So what is that, essentially? Let"s all say it together now: a social network — a small, purpose-specific one, sure, but ultimately still a way khổng lồ keep you within Google"s universe when you have sầu something khổng lồ giới thiệu or say.

And let"s not forget about Google Currents — not the short-lived Android news app from 2011, mind you, but the reworked version of the old G+ framework that"s now positioned as a Workspace-bound corporate communication tool, thereby bringing this same concept directly into lớn the enterprise environment.

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Google

There are other examples out there — including, on some màn chơi, the 7.2 zillion overlapping messaging services Google currently maintains — và if I were a betting man, I"d sure put my money on even more such elements showing up in the months ahead.

If you"re inside another service, you aren"t a Google customer; you"re a ghost

More than anything, Google+ was about keeping your social & communication activity within Google & outside of a walled-off ecosystem. Google knew it needed khổng lồ find a way to lớn do that in order lớn protect its primary business for the long haul, and it"s easy to lớn see why: The more time you spkết thúc within Facebook, ChatSnap, or the Tickety-Tocketies (those are what The Youths™ are using these days, right?), the less time you spover on the part of the internet Google can actually access. And that part of the mạng internet, whether it"s within a Google service or somewhere out on this wild ol" website of ours, is where Google can enrich its protệp tin of your interests & show you the ads that power its business. If you"re inside another service, you aren"t a Google customer; you"re a ghost.

Well, Google+ itself may have failed, but Google is slowly và subtly rebuilding it, in a sense, right before our eyes. You just have sầu lớn zoom out a little lớn see the forest for the trees và put the pieces together.

This new version may not be getting the centralization, the unified branding, or the widespread attention its predecessor did — but in a way, that"s kind of the brilliance of it. Google is effectively giving itself a structure khổng lồ achieve sầu the same goals Google+ phối out to accomplish, only this time, you don"t have to go out of your way khổng lồ embrace it. You don"t have sầu lớn build up a whole new network of connections and deliberately decide lớn visit its virtual trang chính. Instead, it comes to lớn you, in a bunch of super-targeted, almost unnoticeable ways.

Odds are, in fact, you won"t even realize you"re using it — which maybe, just maybe, is part of the point.

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