If shutting down Google+ Photos isn't the death knell for the social network, it at least indicates that Google is losing interest in the site.
"Long-term, it can't be a good thing to have services removed from Google+," Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said about Monday's announcement that Google is shuttering Google+ Photos. "I think removing services puts Google+ in greater peril than if Google was centralizing core services within the social network."
Last year, Google separated its popular Hangout feature from Google+, where it had originated.
Despite these moves, Google said it is staying strong behind its social network.
"We're committed to Google+ and are actively investing in it," a Google spokesman said in an email to Computerworld. "We are incredibly focused on making it the best place to engage with others around interests and shared passions. Our most engaged Google+ users are connecting over topics ranging from home brewing to steam punk to tarantulas. And we want to build an even stronger community based around these connections."
Google said is shutting down Google+ Photos first from Android and then from the Web and iOS. Photos has been one of the most popular features of the struggling social network, which never quite got the momentum or user affection that many had expected when it was launched in 2011.
The move comes just a few months after Google launched Photos, an app separate from Google+ that's designed to help users to easily organize, edit and share their photos and videos.
At that time, Google also backed Google+.
"I can commit to ... Google+," Bradley Horowitz, vice president of photos and streams, said during Google I/O this past May. "It has an excellent team behind it. Some new blood has been brought in. There's been a renaissance in thinking of Google+. It's working really well in connecting people with shared interests."
Shimmin noted that the move is more about the need for Google to better compete on mobile with rivals than plans to shutter Goole+.
"I think it's more of a response to what's happening in the marketplace," he added. "Apple and Microsoft have been prioritizing photography as a means of maximizing their investment in mobile clients. What do we do with our phones? We take pictures with them. It's not the best practice that anyone you share a photo with has to have an account in a particular social network."
Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said Google is trying to simplify things by having just a stand-alone Photo app.
"To a certain extent, they believe the stand-alone app will be more compelling if it isn't concealed under Google+, which hasn't been as successful as they had hoped," he added. "Though, it does look like they are pulling emphasis from Google+, which would be an early indicator they are losing interest in it."
If that's the case, Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, is only surprised it's taken so long.
"I have been waiting for Google+ to start shutting down since they started," he said. "I think if Google could transform and improve Google+, they would have already."
Kagan doesn't buy Google's reassurances about the site.
"This is a bad sign," he said. "It sounds like it may be the beginning of the end for Google+."
This story, "After losing Photos, is Google+ circling the drain?" was originally published by Computerworld.