With New Focus and Design, Can Google+ Survive?

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This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

Remember Google+, the hotly awaited social network that failed to become a true rival for Facebook?

Well it’s gotten an entirely new look and purpose, Google said on Tuesday. After spending years looking for its true identity, it’s finally found a new focus: interests.

“Since we last posted, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say. There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster,” Google director of Streams Eddie Kessler writes in a blog post outlining the new direction.

When it first debuted in summer of 2011 as an invite-only social network, many were intrigued by the possible alternative to Facebook and a network that would seamlessly integrate with the popular email service Gmail. Unfortunately, it failed to tantalize, and Google+ then spent years looking for its place on the Internet, at one point attempting to become the digital layer connecting users’ accounts across all of Google’s services like Gmail, YouTube, and its web browser, Chrome. Google+ also saw leadership shuffles, most notably the departure of senior vice president of social Vic Gundotra in April of 2014. Then in March of this year, Google spun off photo-sharing from the network into its own standalone service, underscoring how key photo-sharing is to social networks in general. In July, it dropped the requirement that a user’s Google+ account be linked to their accounts in other services like YouTube, effectively reversing course on the identity-layer approach it previously took.

And now it seems Google+ is again taking cues from its users behaviors, and focusing its design and features to help them share content about their interests and connect with kindred spirits.

Google+’s new design should also feel more streamlined and mobile-friendly, according to Kessler’s blog post. Users have to opt-into the new design.

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