Sometimes you hop on a bandwagon because it looks like fun. Other times somebody handcuffs and ties you to the wagon and drags you along for the ride. Google plus was kinda like that. Since 2013 YouTube users have been required to jump on the G+ bandwagon, some of them quite literally kicking and screaming, but now, Google has announced that the requirement is being lifted for not only YouTube, but for other Google services as well.
It has been nearly two years since YouTubers were forced to accept G+ in their lives as part of a new comments system, and most begrudgingly have, so why the sudden change in policy? The two main reasons Google cites are a desire to make “a more focused Google+ experience” and to allow users to use “Google without a Google+ profile”. After all of the heartache over the original switch, users are finally getting what they asked for originally. For that silly box to go away that suggested we link our channel with G+ in the first place. I wonder if perhaps Google has recognized that a battle is on their hands for video supremacy and they will no longer allow YouTube to be the flotation device for the failing G+? Apropos of nothing (probably), YouTube's own Google+ page seems to have disappeared in the last couple of days.
Why The Great Google Plus/YouTube Experiment Never Really Worked
I’ll be the first to admit I actually liked G+. Unfortunately not enough of my friends did, so it never really caught on for me. They could force people to have it, but not use it. Let’s face it, nobody likes to be told what to do. I never really understood the need for G+ in the first place, YouTube was working great as both a content and social platform anyway.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to G+ was the loss of their leader, Vic Gundotra, who left the company last year. It was also a bit slow to move into mobile, which is where Facebook shines now. And despite the early success of Google Hangouts, they were passed up by the simple to use Twitch interface as the preferred live broadcast tool. For everything it was good for, there was somebody else one step ahead and perhaps that’s where all of the issues started in the first place, G+ tried to take on too much. It tried to be a Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and every other app all in one. It was the ultimate lesson in focusing on what you do best rather than trying to take on everything.
How will this Change Impact Brands/Creators?
Despite the shortcomings of the platform, G+ has always been a good tool for finding people with similar interests and starting a conversation about it. But its new direction will help ensure that the people who are on the platform are actually using it and should help it thrive where it is still useful. Whether or not this shift helps or hurts that identity will be key.
If you didn’t realize it, your activity has been sharing itself over on G+. Once this separation occurs you’ll go back to having your comments only appear on YouTube. It should allow YouTube to make changes to YouTube that benefit the users there without considering how it will impact G+. This is great news for YouTubers.
Most especially this should raise engagement on YouTube, which according to one panelist at VidCon was being smashed by Facebook in that department. Currently the comments include G+ activity and often that activity drifted to the top of the comment section, discouraging activity with comments that merely showed the activity of a video being shared. Users who did not make the switch to G+ originally are already reporting some functionality has returned for them that was not available before, like favoriting videos.
YouTubers - Don't Remove Google + Yet!
This is not automatic. If you want to make the split from G+, you’ll have to take specific actions to remove G+ from your YouTube account. But as YouTube says:
Do NOT do it right now or you’ll delete your YouTube Channel!
Google confirmed that these changes will be rolled out slowly over “several months” with YouTube functionality going first. This approach should make the separation rather painless. I’m a little surprised that this wasn’t announced at YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s keynote at VidCon. Had she really wanted to bring on the cheers this would have been the announcement to make.