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Will The Exit Of Google's Don Quixote Be The Demise Of G+?

With the departure of G+'s head honcho Vic Gundotra, the blogosphere is cyberventilating as to what kind of a future lies ahead for that little social-network-that-could? It wasn't so long ago, the critics opined Google's DNA lacked the social media gene, as every time they got up on the horse, it appeared they were battling one windmill after another. Now, they're saying the burden of keeping the successful G+ well and alive was based solely on the merits of one man?

Oh thou bleak and unbearable world. . .

As many of us remember, there's been a number of failed attempts by Google in its attempts to transition into a viable competitor of Facebook. Most notably, Orkut which aside from capturing a massive market share in Brazil and India is today a mere footnote in social media history, lacking even a gravestone marker to indicate it ever existed. Others emerged and faded as quickly - the likes of  the flawed enterprise platform called ironically Wave. And of course the infamous Buzz disaster of 2010 when it tried unsuccessfully to muscle in on the liitle-known (at the time) 4 yr-old microblogging site called Twitter.

Hear me now, heathens and wizards. . .

This led to a very intense announcement issued by Urz Holzle, a Google engineer who was also one of the search giant's first ten employees. The message issued as a warning threatened that if the staff didn't figure out a social strategy, they ran the risk of "being crushed."

A Knight with his banner all bravely unfurled. . .

Vic GundotraVic GundotraWith the entree of Vic Gundotra, Google's cofounder Larry Page also became personally involved in spearheading what eventually morphed into G+. It was Page who followed up Holzle's threat by enforcing a directive that all Googlers would have their bonuses tied to the success of a social media roll-out or else. From 2011 to the present day, these annual incentives could vary as much as 25 percent (up or down) depending how well Google "performs against (their) strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across (all of their) products." (for more on this history, see my previousl post titled, "Sucking Less Socially Will Pay More At Google.")

No Wild Winds of Fortune to carry it onward. . .

Flash forward 3 years, and with Mr. Gundotra out the door with not even a whisper as to the "why or wherefore," speculation runs rampant that his departure signals the demise of Google+ as we know it today. Some see this social network without its Don Quixote battling its daily windmill skirmishes as a doomed enterprise. 

Similar to Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and Oculus Rift and allowing these two entities to operate "outside" the boundaries of it social networking ecosystem, many feel that Google will start dissecting the entities attached to G+ so they also can thrive independently.

TechCrunch's post "Google+ Is Walking Dead hypothesizes that G+" stated it "will no longer be considered a product but a platform - essentially ending its competition with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter." The report went on further to conjecture Google Hangouts would move to smartphone integrations with "the Google+ photos team to follow," in addition to YouTube also ending its interface with G+.

"Basically, talent will be shifting away from the Google+ kingdom and towards Android as a platform," the report concluded.

Whithersoever they blow, Onward to glory we go!

It's hard for me to buy into G+ divesting its individual components as is being suggested. As critical as I was about the possibility of G+ succeeding in the past, I'm just as convinced today, it's made too many significant inroads as a viable competitor to Facebook. While its user base is approximately only 1/3 of FB's (540 million to 1.4 billion), a recent comScore stat shows its average users per year exceeding Facebook by 28 million.

Additionally, G+'s secret sauce has and always will be it's search capabilities. Having not only built and sustained its market share worldwide as the best search engine over the course of the last decade, it maintains a specific kind of leverage with its user base that Facebook could only dream of.

Tying Google Search to G+ as well as YouTube was a masterful move - for it's a strategic conduit that keeps its users tethered to this social network all day long. Facebook's desire to build a comparable search engine pales in comparison.

Will there be Google+ Apocalypse? Will Googlers become the Walking Dead? Not likely! It's highly doubtful that all Larry Page personally invested in that little social-network-that-could would be shelved solely based on the exit of one man? It's highly doubtful, because at the end of the day, it's the cofounder who was and is the real Don Quixote. Gundotra, on the other hand was merely his trusty side-kick, Sancho Panza. And guess what, there's a whole helluva lot of new windmills emerging on the digital horizon just ready to be knocked down. If G+ is Google's La Mancha, I'm quite sure the man wielding its sword sees his quest as a never-ending one, in protecting his turf.

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Ron Callari
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