Google Users Panic Over Google+ Deletion Emails: Here’s What’s Actually Happening

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Two days ago I posted “Google’s Google+ Shutdown Emails Are Causing Mass Confusion” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2019/02/02/googles-google-shutdown-emails-are-causing-mass-confusion) — and the reactions I’m receiving make it very clear that the level of confusion and panic over this situation by vast numbers of Google users is even worse than I originally realized. My inbox is full of emails from worried users asking for help and clarifications that they can’t find or get from Google (surprise!) — and my Google+ (G+) threads on the topic are similarly overloaded with desperate comments. People are telling me that their friends and relatives have called them, asking what this all means.

Beyond the user trust abusive manner in which Google has been conducting the entire consumer Google+ shutdown process (even their basic “takeout” tool to download your own posts is reported to be unreliable for G+ downloads at this point), their notification emails, which I had long urged be sent to provide clarity to users, instead were worded in ways that have massively confused many users, enormous numbers of whom don’t even know what Google+ actually is. These users typically don’t understand the manners in which G+ is linked to other Google services. They understandably fear that their other Google services may be negatively affected by this mess.

Since Google isn’t offering meaningful clarification for panicked users — presumably taking its usual “this too shall pass” approach to user support problems — I’ll clarify this all as succinctly as I can — to the best of my knowledge — right here in this post.

UPDATE (February 5, 2019): Google has just announced that the Web notification panel primarily used to display G+ notifications will be terminated this coming March 7. This cuts another month off the useful life of G+, right when we’ll need notifications the most to coordinate with our followers for continuing contacts after G+. Without the notification panel, this will be vastly more difficult, since the alternative notifications page is very difficult to manage. No apologies. No nuthin’. First it was August. Then April. Now March. Can Google mistreat consumer users any worse? You can count on it!

Here’s an important bottom line: Core Google Services that you depend upon such as Gmail, Drive, Photos, YouTube, etc. will not be fundamentally affected by the G+ shutdown, but in some cases visible effects may occur due to the tight linkages that Google created between G+ and other services.

No, your data on Gmail or Drive won’t be deleted by the Google+ shutdown process. Your uploaded YouTube videos won’t be deleted by this.

However, outside of the total loss of user trust by loyal Google+ users, triggered by the kick in the teeth of the Google+ shutdown (without even provision of a tool to help with followers migration – “If Google Cared: The Tool That Could Save Google+ Relationships” (https://lauren.vortex.com/2019/02/01/if-google-cared-the-tool-that-could-save-google-relationships), there will be a variety of other Google services that will have various aspects “break” as a result of Google’s actions related to Google+.

To understand why, it’s important to understand that when Google+ was launched in 2011, it was positioned more as an “identity” product than a social media product per se. While it might have potentially competed with Facebook in some respects, creating a platform for “federated” identity across a wide variety of applications and sites was an important goal, and in the early days of Google+, battles ensued over such issues as whether users would continue to be required to use their ostensibly “real” names for G+ (aka, the “nymwars”).

Google acted to integrate this identity product — that is, Google+ — into many Google services and heavily promoted the use of G+ “profiles” and widgets (comments, +1 buttons, “follow” buttons, login functions, etc.) for third-party sites as well.

In some cases, Google required the creation of G+ profiles for key functions on other services, such as for creating comments on YouTube videos (a requirement that was later dropped as user reactions in both the G+ and YouTube communities where overwhelmingly negative).

Now that consumer G+ has become an “inconvenience” to Google, they’re ripping it out by the roots and attempting to completely eliminate any evidence of its existence, by totally removing all G+ posts, comments, and the array of G+ functions that they had intertwined with other services and third-party sites.

This means that anywhere that G+ comments have continued to be present (including Google services like “Blogger”), those comments will vanish. Users whom Google had encouraged at other sites and services to use G+ profile identities (rather than the underlying Google Account identities) will find those capabilities and profiles will disappear. Sites that embedded G+ widgets and functions will have those capabilities crushed, and their page formats in many cases disrupted as a result. Photos that were stored only in G+ and not backed up into the mainstream Google Photos product will reportedly be deleted along with all the G+ posts and comments.

And then on top of all this other Google-created mayhem related to their mishandling of the G+ shutdown, we have those panic-inducing emails going out to enormous numbers of Google users, most of whom don’t understand them. They can’t get Google to explain what the hell is going on, especially in a way that makes sense if you don’t understand what G+ was in the first place, even if somewhere along the line Google finessed you into creating a G+ account that you never actually used.

There’s an old saying — many of you may have first heard it stated by “Scotty” in an old original “Star Trek” episode: “Fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on me!”

In a nutshell, this explains why so many loyal users of great Google services — services that we depend on every day — are so upset by how Google has handled the fiasco of terminating consumer Google+. This applies whether or not these users were everyday, enthusiastic participants in G+ itself (as I’ve been since the first day of beta availability) — or even if they don’t have a clue of what Google+ is — or was.

Even given the upper management decision to kill off consumer Google+, the actual process of doing so could have been handled so much better — if there was genuine concern about all of the affected users. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine realistic scenarios of how Google could have bungled this situation any worse.

And that’s very depressing, to say the least.

–Lauren–