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–

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20 thoughts on “Google Users Panic Over Google+ Deletion Emails: Here’s What’s Actually Happening”

  1. Lauren, found your report BY CHANCE but THANKS SO MUCH for the explanation. At least I now understand that my email accounts will not be affected.
    SHAME ON U GOOGLE!!!!!!!!

    1. Yes, Lauren – Thank you so much for the explanation. Google’s email to me left a lot to my imagination!!

  2. I’ve been using G+ like Pinterest, since I can’t access Pinterest at work, for saving things like links to recipes, crafts, shopping, articles, etc. I have several years of links amassed, and I use G+ fairly regularly to access these links. I don’t see any way to save all my posts other than opening each link and saving it to pinterest. Is that correct?

    1. In theory, you can use Google Takeout — https://takeout.google.com — to download your posts, etc. from G+. However, there are reports that it has been unstable for G+ downloads lately (e.g. terminating prematurely, returning different numbers of posts when run multiple times, etc.) so this may not be a particularly smooth user experience.

  3. Thank you for your article. I had no idea what Google+ was. I thought the entire Google was going out of business. I deleted all of my contacts, photos etc before reading your article.

    What a mess. Thanks again for the information.

  4. It doesn’t help that they’re sunsetting Inbox as well, I don’t know when exactly. Inbox is another app for reading your Gmail, it’s the one with the blue style. So the Gmail app and your actual emails are staying, but the other app called Inbox is going. The bottom line is you still got your Gmail.

    But what are we to make of this? Next time Google produce some cool app or site people will look at it and say “Huh? I’m not using that! It’ll stay around for a couple of years and then vanish.”

  5. I don’t know if you have heard this, Lauren, but I deleted my Google+ profile a month ago. I created a new one yesterday (“joined” Google+, to see if you still can, and yes, you can). What I found was that all the same circles and followers were still there as well as all profile info, phone and email, job history, education, etc. Only the posts and profiles I was following were gone.

    1. I’m assuming that they would not be affected since there is no obvious relation to G+. But I don’t have specific definitive information about this.

    1. Given the URL, looks like they get flushed down the toilet with the rest of Google+. My understanding is that all G+ photos will be lost, except those that have been backed up to Google Photos (and/or downloaded by the owner through Google Takeout, of course).

  6. Thank you for this explanation. I have received the second email from Google concerning this, and I still don’t recall if I have signed up for a Google + account in the past (or how to access it if I did). I was trying to find out if Google sent this email to all gmail accounts, or just the ones that actually had an account set up in Google +. I am glad to know that gmail won’t be in jeapardy (this time at least).

  7. At last, someone who sounds like they know what is going on! I am getting these “you have content in Google+ for your personal (consumer) account or a Google+ page you manage” but have never knowingly signed up for Google+. How can I tell what page it is referring to? I have a terrible suspicion it might refer to my page on blogspot.com which has 4000 carefully annotated pictures on it. Is Blogspot part of the Google+ demolition? Is there a simple way I can just find out what ‘page’ or content the messages are referring to without having to download the content to read it?

    1. If the comments or photos were posted via a G+ profile, they likely will ultimately vanish as part of the shutdown. You’d need to figure out how you posted them and which URLs are involved. You may have posted them all the same way. In any case, use Google Takeout and download everything related onto a local disk or other venue to be safe.

  8. I been to here https://takeout.google.com and I see nothing in the list that is specifically labelled as Google+. But I’ve gotten the e-mail that I have Google+ content twice now. I’ve never used Google+ as far as I can tell, just GMail, Drive and Photos. I followed the links in the e-mail received and I see NEITHER a downgrade or upgrade link as this says “You can delete your Google+ profile any time by going to http://plus.google.com/downgrade, signing in, and following the instructions on that page. If you see an upgrade page, you don’t have a Google+ profile.” So I’m kinda lost if I have anything that is actually Google+. How can you tell for sure? Thank-you for your posts

    1. The odds are that you never actually had an ACTIVE Google+ profile, even if you went through the motions of creating one when prompted to do so sometime along the line. So you may not actually have any G+ content to download.

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