May 21, 2015

Google+ Drops "Ripples" -- Thumbing Nose at G+'s Most Loyal Users

As much as I admire Google (full disclosure, while I have consulted to them, I'm not currently doing so), for the life of me I cannot understand their fetish not only for killing features that are much loved by significant numbers of users, but so often doing this with little or no warning at all.

So here we go again. In a terse post on G+ today, Google announced that they had immediately dropped support for the Google+ "Ripples" feature. Zero warning. Just POOF.

Granted, if you're not a heavy user of G+ and don't have a lot of followers, you may not have ever even bothered playing with Ripples at all or even known of it. Ripples was always relatively hidden, suggesting the amount of non-love Google felt it deserved.

But for folks like me (I have nearly 400K G+ followers), Ripples was incredibly useful, providing me with a graphical representation of sharing patterns related to my posts -- it was an extremely valuable engagement visualization tool.

So, why did Google kill it now?

Oh, I can wager some guesses. Maybe nobody wanted to devote the fraction of time necessary to maintain it, or perhaps a broader G+ backend redesign made it difficult or impossible to reasonably continue for technical reasons.

Nothing lasts forever.

But in the name of bits, bytes, and Beelzebub, I simply cannot fathom why Google cannot provide some degree of advance warning before disabling features like this. A month? A week? 48 hours? Something?

Even if we grant that Ripples wasn't widely used and large numbers of users won't be affected at Google scale -- these aren't valid excuses for essentially thumbing your nose at some of your most devoted users as if they just don't matter at all.

It's almost as if Google just doesn't want to be bothered unless millions or billions of users are directly impacted.

I've been pushing back against folks claiming that Google is planning to ramp down Google+ -- but Google's attitude toward the services' most devoted evangelists seems downright bizarre, and indeed causes one to ponder this question more deeply.

More than bizarre -- it's simple disrespect. And unfortunately, it's the kind of communications failure that has become all too common with Google.

We'll all live without G+ Ripples. In the relative scheme of things, it's not a big deal.

But its very triviality has the ironic effect of causing one to wonder how users will be treated when the really important issues roll around again.

And at least for someone like me who has enormous admiration and respect for what Google has accomplished, I'm left with a very sour taste in mouth, that I really wish wasn't there.


Posted by Lauren at May 21, 2015 01:12 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein