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Is Google+ being slowly sunsetted? Mandatory Gmail integration gets removed

google slowly sunsetted mandatory gmail integration gets removed no thanks plus signup
In a move that reduces that ability of the company’s social network to recruit new users, Google has decided to remove the mandatory requirement of setting up a Google+ account when new Gmail users open an email account. Since January 2012, new Gmail users have been forced to set up a Google+ account during the setup process. This particular move, similar to the mandatory account creation for new YouTube accounts, caused an outcry from the tech community. As of early September 2014, new Gmail users have an option to opt out of setting up a Google+ account by clicking the “No Thanks” button when promoted.

This move has an enormous impact on the number of Google+ accounts that will be created on a daily basis, even if the majority of those users wouldn’t have become active Google+ users over time. It’s also yet another move in a series of changes that’s evidence of Google moving away from actively promoting or even developing new features for Google+. Check out the timeline of events over the last nine months:

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  • December 2013: The date of the last post on the official Google+ Developers Blog. In addition, only one major new feature for Google+ has warranted a dedicated post on the Official Google Blog this year, Google+ Stories.
  • April 2014: The head of the Google+ project, Vic Gundotra, departs Google without warning after eight years with the company. Multiple sources reported Google+ was becoming a platform, not a product. In addition, Techcrunch reported that the core team working on Google+ was being split up and relocated to other teams, mostly Android related.
  • April 2014: Noticed by web developers first, Google started testing a transition away from the red “Login in with Google+” buttons to a blue “Sign in with Google” button.
  • June 2014: Google was relatively silent about any Google+ developments or integration at the yearly Google I/O 2014 conference, despite having 80 sessions scheduled for attendees. Comparatively, Google had a two-day block marked off for Google+ over 15 sessions during the 2013 conference.
  • June 2014: Google announces the removal of Google+ author photos and Google+ circle count from basic search results. Authorship markup was completed ignored two months later in favor of rich snippets.
  • July 2014: Google Hangouts, arguably one of the best features of Google+, no longer requires a Google+ login to use.
  • July 2014: Google removes the restriction of using a real name on the social network. While controversial when launched, using a real name on the service encouraged users to comment responsibly over the years. The removal of this feature has the potential to increase fake comments and trolling on posts.
  • August 2014: Google Photos, another excellent Google+ feature, is being rolled into a standalone product that doesn’t require a Google+ login.
  • August 2014: The YouTube development team launched a tool that allows users to export all Google+ videos to YouTube, potentially allowing users to transition away from Google+ and focus on YouTube.
  • September 2014: Mandatory Gmail integration is removed from the email sign-up process.

If anything, Google is slowly removing Google+ mandatory usage from products as well as making the best features of Google+ accessible for users outside of the social network. Assuming Google is quietly sunsetting the social network, it’s likely that this transition will take many more months or possibly even years to complete. Google worked diligently over the last three years to integrate the Google+ platform into many popular Google products, thus removal of said platform will take time.

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Even YouTube’s co-founder hates the new Google+ commenting integration
youtube google plus jawed karim comment maxresdefault

Eight years after posting the first-ever video on YouTube, co-founder Jawed Karim has returned from the shadows … to complain about the new requirement that YouTube users login to Google+ to leave a comment.
Karim, who goes by the name Jawed on YouTube, left the following comment about a week ago – his first comment ever. Just a warning, the comment is NSFW:
“why the fuck do i need a google+ account to comment on a video?” Karim wrote.
The comment has struck a chord with YouTube users, who have reposted his comment repeatedly on the video “Me at the zoo,” which shows Karim at the San Diego Zoo making a coy joke about elephants’ “really long … trunks.” The video was posted by Karim in April of 2005, and is the only video Karim ever posted.

Originally announced in September, YouTube’s Google+ comment integration was finalized earlier this week. By requiring users to link their YouTube comments with their Google+ profile, the company hopes to bring a level of civility to the notoriously horrendous comments often found on the video sharing site. The change also allows highly rated comments to appear at the top by default, while pushing less popular comments further down the page.
Like Karim, many YouTube users despise the new Google+ comment integration feature, and see it as a blatant attempt by Google, which owns YouTube, to link YouTube comments with users’ real identities for the purposes of data collection.

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Google+ app review: The social network you’re not using gets better

Google insists that its social network, Google+, has millions of users and is getting more every day. Now, we're really in no position to question the all-knowing, powerful search engine and purveyor of all information (if we wanted to know that for sure, we'd have to Google it to find out), but we bet if you asked your friends about Google+, most of them would say "That's still a thing?" Turns out, yeah, it still is a thing and Google seems to be pretty proud of it. Despite its slow rise (maybe?) to relevance, Google is still sure the social network will fully take off, and it's supporting that belief with some fine updates to the Google+ Android app.
After a major overhaul of the user interface for the Web version of Google+, a mobile one was sure to be right behind it, and the update for Android brings some fairly major changes and a new emphasis on photography. Paralleling the photo enhancement tools offered on the Web, Google+ for Android now includes new editing tools that will provide some digital enhancements to your latest snapshots. These effects are applied through auto-enhance, a feature that you will have the option to turn on or off or just apply to an individual image.
After playing around with it a bit, we think Google manages to do a pretty solid job in applying edits to photos. It will depend on your taste a bit, as there is the chance that an enhancement may come off as more overkill than anything, but for the most part, you should feel safe letting Google take over as your director of photography. If you aren't ready to surrender that control, there is built-in Snapseed editing options so you can manage changes as you see fit.
Aside from being sure that it can improve your pictures, Google+ is also positive it can pick out your best snapshots as well. That is the goal of the Highlight feature, which analyses the photos you upload and picks out the ones that it believes should be on display. It does this through an algorithm that we're sure only Google truly understands, but it bypasses blurs and out-of-focus photos in favor of clear shots of landmarks, people, and generally gorgeous imagery. Of course, this feature may lead to some concern if Google decides to not include any pictures of your face in your Highlights reel. You should also be worried of the auto-enhance feature replaces your face with someone else's entirely (sorry, man). Google+ does its best to make up for any of these issues with the Auto Awesome feature, an easter egg more than anything that will animate images that have a similar focus or would work together in .GIF form. It's not a major feature, but is fun when it works.
Outside of photography, location sharing within circles has been added, which gives you the ability to show others where you are or check out the locales of your friends. This can be viewed in Google Maps view, which is a cool way to see the check ins of your friends or family and get a better visualization of where they are - although it does seem a little bit stalker-y. Don't go showing up uninvited to other people's check ins, please.
Auto-tagged posts have also made their way from Web to app. Using hashtags a la Twitter, Google+ has increased your ability to discover new content and reach an audience outside of just your circles when you share a piece of content that has a particular focus. When you see a post on Google+ that has a hashtag, you can click on it and the app takes you to a feed stream based just on that tag. It doesn't have the cool card-flipping style of the Web UI, but it's still a nice feature for the platform.
One area of confusion with the Google+ app, though, comes on the left-hand menu bar. Among the many options are "Hangouts" and "Messenger," which we were under the impression were going to be merged. Hangouts is also its own app now, replacing the Google Talk app, and clicking on Hangouts will direct you to the Google Play Store to download the Hangouts app itself onto your Android device. Meanwhile, clicking on the Messenger app allows you to start chats with people from your Google+ circles, but has a banner above your contacts that encourages you to download Hangouts. We're not sure if this is done to slowly transition people, but it appears you can still chat in Google+ even though it strongly suggests downloading Hangouts instead. We hope some clarity will come in further updates.
If you aren't using Google+ yet, now really isn't a bad time to start. With the reboot to the user interface for both the Web and mobile version of the social network, Google+ seems to be a very well designed, full-featured platform for content sharing and discovery. Its photo tools are pretty much unmatched by anything that would be considered in the same category as it, so photography lovers and people who love to snap away and upload to their heart's content should be happy to put their presence on Google+. It seems that Google isn't going to abandon the platform any time soon, and the new app version makes it more than manageable on the go. It's a great experience all around, and it will better if actual people are on it.
You can download Google+ for free from the Google Play Store. And if you're still interested in Google's social network, read why we think Google+ is struggling.

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Google+ axes MG Siegler’s ‘offensive’ profile picture

By now we know that Google+ takes itself a little more seriously than other social networks. Since the site’s beginning, it has taken the path less traveled and held itself to a different standard than competitor applications. It took an anti-alias stance (which has since been reformed), heavily policed celebrity profiles, and kept out anyone under 18.
Google+ has also tried to keep things PC. The site has made no qualms about keeping the environment clear of less than desirable behavior and comments. There have been a myriad of examples of this content patrolling, but it’s come to a head in the case of a middle finger.
Tech pundit MG Siegler reported earlier this week that his Google profile picture had vanished. The photo was of Siegler looking away from the camera and giving the photographer the middle finger. There’s nothing shocking about the picture, save for the mildly lewd gesture (which many wouldn’t label shocking at all). However, Google felt the need to pull the photo.
A Googler explained the decision to Siegler. “As the first point of interaction with a user’s profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy,” he wrote. “Our policy page states, ‘Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content.’ Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy.”
So it seems as if Google+ is treading on the very thin line we’ve worried about all along. Censorship is a slippery slope and the site’s conservative take on what is and isn’t okay has been an issue since day one. Originally it was about making you use your real name, and now we’re seeing it extended further. What’s considered offensive is, obviously, subject to interpretation. But user interpretation isn’t what matters: Google’s interpretation is.
Google’s been in this spot many times, not only regarding Google+. The site’s secretive search algorithm and page rank policies have gathered criticism, largely in the form of “who died and made Google king?” On one hand, the platform has earned its prestige. On the other, the Internet community has plenty of reasons to raise their eyebrows at Google’s formulas.
Google+ is only the latest victim of Google’s heavy-handed tactics on what goes and what doesn’t on the Web. And maybe users will generally appreciate this: the site's membership is climbing, and perhaps a conservative, mature community is what it's trying to cultivate. So clean up your profiles—because it looks like dissension will not be tolerated. 

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