Much like the Google logo before it, Google+ is being completely reinvented today. In a blog post, Google says that after pulling in feedback from users it has decided to focus the former do-everything social network around two key features: communities and collections. Collections launched earlier this year as a way to let users gather a bunch of content together around a single idea and share it with other users, while the older communities section encouraged users of similar interests to share “whatever you’re into,” be it food, sports, photography, the country of New Zealand, or anything else. The new version is rolling out today on the web, iOS and Android — you’ll need to opt-in if you’re viewing it from your browser, and the apps don’t appear to have gone live just yet.
Narrowing the focus of Google+ was probalby the best way for Google to salvage the service. It originally started life as a Facebook-style social network for posting links, photos, status updates, and more with your friends. The original big innovation was the concept of dividing the people you followed on Google+ into “circles” and then sharing content with just the relevant groups of people, but it failed to catch on with users. However, there’s no doubt that some good things came out of Google+ as well — particularly the excellent Google Photos project that the company separated out of Google+ back at I/O this year.
With today’s change, Google+ will formally be less about interacting with your real-life friends and more about finding topics that interest you and meeting people across the internet who have those same interests. Alongside its photos product, those community features were probably the most successful part of Google+ for a long time. While I never had any friends who used it very much, I did come across some pretty vibrant photography communities after just a little exploration. Now, those features will be more front and center for users who want them.
The question of Google+ living up to its original ambitions ended a long time ago — it’s months since the company stopped forcing Google users to create a Google+ profile. Now, the company is simply taking the parts of the service that were working for users and putting them front and center for its users.