Over the last few months, there’s been a lot of discussion regarding the Google+ shutdown. Back in October 2018, Google has announced the plans to sunset the consumer version of Google+, with various reasons behind this decision. While the user base has never been as large as the other big competitors, Google’s social network was far from being empty. As a result, the company’s announcement hasn’t gone unnoticed. More recently, consumers have started receiving e-mails, officially notifying them of the upcoming changes. In this article, we’re going to cover the entire situation and explain the Google+ shutdown schedule.
Why is Google+ Shutting Down?
Most news attribute the Google+ shutdown to the security vulnerability of the login APIs. While this incident has actually happened, potentially exposing a lot of personal data, it’s not the main reason why Google is closing its social network. In fact, disabling the Google+ APIs in favor of the regular Google login, would have sufficed to permanently resolve the issue. Instead, Google has decided to delete the entire website, with all the user accounts and communities.
The real reason for this choice is simple: maintaining such social network involves some significant costs and a lot of time. Google has recognized the challenges that were involved in meeting the consumer’s expectations. However, the required effort wasn’t justified by the relatively low usage of the website. For the same reason, we can also assume that Google+ wasn’t appealing to the most important advertisers. As a result, supporting the development and other costs through ad revenue wasn’t the best option neither.
Before getting into details with the shutdown schedule, let’s see an overview of the privacy issues we have mentioned earlier.
Project Strobe: First Google+ Privacy Bug
Back in March 2018, Google has discovered and fixed a privacy bug affecting the Google+ sign-in APIs. This problem allowed third-party apps to access private account information, without being explicitly authorized by the user. To be precise, this information included the full name, gender, occupation, age, and e-mail address. While there is no evidence of any developer being aware of it and taking advantage of the data, it was reasonable to be worried about it. Google estimates that the bug has involved a total of 438 apps and up to 500.000 Google+ accounts.
In order to address some of the problems in the ecosystem and improve privacy, Google has started Project Strobe. In the original blog article, shared on October 8, the company has shared the information about the Google+ shutdown. Along with the login APIs bug, the article also explains the reasons behind the website shutdown, which we have covered earlier. At the time, Google was planning to do this in August 2019, which we know is no longer true. However, we can also see that the shutdown will only affect the consumer side, thus keeping it active for G Suite accounts. If you’re interested, you can find some insights below.
Expediting Changes: Second Privacy Bug
A more recent Google+ update has compromised the functionality of one login API, which has again brought to a potential security risk. The issue has appeared in November, and Google managed to resolve it within a single week. Since the information has reached the public only after the patch implementation, it’s unlikely that any developer took advantage of the bug. However, the company is worried about the possibility of this happening again, so they’re accelerating the Google+ shutdown.
Google says that the data of up to 52.5 million accounts were at risk of leaking. For some detailed information, you can see the list of potentially exposed fields from the development page. Instead, from the Google Blog, you can see the official communication with all the details.
When is the Google+ Shutdown Happening?
On January 28, Google has started sending e-mails with the shutdown details. A few days later, both mobile and desktop versions of the website have begun showing a banner to inform all users. As we have mentioned, the initial plan was scheduling the Google+ shutdown for August 2019. However, the new security concerns have forced Google to rush the process. As a result, the login APIs will only work till March 7, while the website‘s last day will be April 2.
Additionally, you’ll notice some intermittent failures, to encourage you leaving the platform as soon as possible. These failures have started on January 28, with the temporary deactivation of the push notifications. At the moment, it’s not clear which other effects we can expect in the upcoming weeks. However, we do know that starting on February 4, you won’t be able to create new profiles, pages or communities.
Google Takeout: Export your Google+ Data
In order to help switching to other platforms, Google has provided a tool to export your Google+ data. You can find the link below, and we recommend reading the official guide for all the instructions. Starting from the beginning of March, this tool will gain some additional functionality, so you’ll be able to download even more content. Apart from this, Google also offers some recommendations, in order to streamline the process. If you’re interested, check out the Q&A page.Google Takeout Export Tool
G Suite and Google+ for Business
As we have mentioned, the Google+ shutdown will only affect consumers. Instead, Google is planning a lot of important changes in the G Suite version. In fact, the new Google+ will arrive later in February, with a new design and a lot of new features. The goal is offering a new productivity tool, allowing for easier group working and more effective communication. If you’re curious about these changes, we recommend to check out the product overview. Additionally, if you have a G Suite account, you should definitely pay attention to the upcoming changes.
Full Google+ Shutdown Schedule
- January 28: Start of the intermittent failures
- February 4: Impossibility of creating new accounts, pages, and communities
- February 22: Release of the new Google+ for G Suite accounts
- March 7: Google+ Login APIs deactivation
- April 2: Consumer Google+ shutdown and data deletion
If you have had enough info about the impending death of Google+, let’s learn about a bunch of Facebook tips and tricks now.