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Ailing Google+ to be ripped apart

Google signals that its social network is set for a major revamp

Google+ will be split into three parts, as the search giant attempts to breathe new life into its ailing social network. Google+ was launched in 2011 and is the company’s fourth stab at cracking the social networking market, having previously failed with Buzz (killed off in 2011), Friend Connect (2012) and Orkut (2014). 

Google+ has arguably fared better than any of its predecessors, although it has nowhere near the public recognition or userbase of rivals such as Twitter and Facebook. Now it appears Google is set to break the service apart.

Google+ chief David Besbris has been replaced after less than a year in his job by his colleague Bradley Horowitz, who helped set up Google+ in 2011. Posting on his own Google+ account, Horowitz suggests the social network will be broken up into its component parts: “Just wanted to confirm that the rumours are true – I’m excited to be running Google’s Photos and Streams products!  It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users.”

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Horowitz’s comments echo those made an interview published over the weekend with Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president, who also said that Google+ was set for a revamp. “I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area,” he said in an interview with Forbes

The “communications” element of the three new areas likely refers to Google Hangouts, the video and instant messaging service that is both available as a separate app and as part of Google+. That could now be repositioned as a direct rival to Skype, while the Google+ Stream is left to duke it out with Twitter and Facebook. Photo sharing could be subsumed back into the Picasa brand, leaving Google with three distinct products instead of one all-encompassing social network. 

Google is expected to shed further light on its plans later today, when it holds a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 

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