Google+ isn’t dying anytime soon, says Google’s new head of social media David Besbris.
Of course, you’d expect the person in charge of the social network to say so, despite the fact that it’s hard to ignore the chatter about the imminent demise of Google’s social media efforts following the departure of longtime Google+ head Vic Gundotra who unexpectedly left in April.
Besbris assured us Google has every intention to continue investment in the division. The former VP of engineering for Google+ took the reins from Gundotra in April, and now oversees all of Google’s social products. The Google+ team has new offices on the east side of Google’s sprawling Mountain View, Calif., campus, and rumors that the team was dwindling are also not true.
“We’re the largest we’ve ever been,” Besbris told Re/code in an exclusive interview. “We weren’t booted to any part of campus, we chose to come over here.”
We caught up with Besbris to learn what he has in store in the months ahead.
The interview that follows has been edited for length and clarity.
Is Google+ going away anytime soon?
We’re actually very happy with the progress of Google+. [CEO Larry Page] said this at the time that Vic transitioned that he’s going to continue working on building this stuff, that he’s very happy with it. The company is behind it. I have no idea where these rumors come from, to be honest with you.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Google+?
People underestimate the connection Google+ has with its users around interests. I think people come to Google+ with this expectation that it’s going to be Google’s attempt to do some other product — we’re doing this to compete with somebody and it must be something like that. That’s not actually how we compete with products. We don’t approach products in that we need to go into [certain] industries because somebody else is doing something important. We go into this industry because we want to make users happy, because we see some software out there that’s scratching some itches.
This is how Google has always done stuff. There were search engines before Google, we just did it differently. There were email systems before Gmail came out, we just approached the problem differently. We had a different way we thought we could solve the core use cases [on social]. I think the social graph is pretty nuanced. The idea that everybody you [know] has the same access to you is just not a correct model for humanity. Our users love Circles. They love that Google+ has privacy built in as a feature from the very beginning. That nuanced sharing that we’ve led with, and others have added to their products which I think is wonderful, has been a big improvement to the industry.
Of all the social products you have, where does Google+ fall in terms of your priority list?
Very high. Photos, Hangouts, Google+ — I’d say these are my top three priorities. The Google+ app you see out there today is used by hundreds of millions of users, it’s actually something I use every single day with my friends and family and my interests, talking about photography and my unnatural affection for little squirrels and things like that. So I’m a passionate user of these things.
The company often talks about Photos as being one of the strengths of Google+ — what are some of the other strengths?
Video hangouts are pretty incredible. There’s no technology out there as refined for doing the multi-party video as what we have. In the consumer space, some of what we’ve seen that’s really incredible has been communities. That’s what we’ve seen take off like a rocket inside Google+.
What are some areas Google+ needs to improve upon?
We’ve always had really good mobile apps for iOS and Android, but we can never have enough energy or focus on mobile. I’m really happy with what we have but I think it opens up new avenues and new frontiers, stuff we can do with location that we’ve never been able to do before. The phone is this amazing thing, it’s a supercomputer that sits in your pocket with all these nifty sensors. I think as an industry we’ve barely tapped the surface of what this can do.