Google Inc. is no longer requiring new Gmail users to also register for a Google+ account – the mandatory creation of a social profile with Google had been in place since 2012 – in its latest retreat from pushing Google+ integration with its myriad other web services.
A LinkedIn Pulse post written by Larry Kim, founder and CTO of WordStream Inc., details the quiet change in policy from Google. New users to Gmail are now presented with the simple option to either create a social profile, or not. A Google spokesperson confirmed with Kim that the change in policy had been in place since early September.
This is just the latest way in which Google has pulled back from its assertive integration of Google+ with its other services recently. Take for example Google Authorship – a feature that previously tied together Google+ profiles with articles published online. In its search engine results pages, Google had taken to featuring the photo (taken directly from Google+ profiles) along with a byline for authors that had connected that article with their profiles by using code on the website and including a link to the published domain in their profile. It was a way to potentially receive more clicks, and be featured higher in Google search when those authors were in the networks of signed-in search users.
But Google Authorship has also gone by the wayside. No longer are bylines or author photos featured next to articles in search results. As a result, any SEO benefits that might have been realized before have also vanished.
Not all aspects of Google+ integration have been repealed. For example, despite its unpopularity, the feature to integrate Youtube comments with video posts is still live.
Also for businesses, Google+ brand pages are still connected to Google Local pages, which give owners and operators control over their information that is displayed on Google Maps and in local search results.
While some may speculate Google’s retrenching indicates the search giant is considering killing its social service, it could simply be that it wants to be less pushy about getting people to create Google+ profiles. After all, signing up an army of inactive accounts likely doesn’t add much in the way of value for the network.