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Would businesses embrace Google+ as a corporate social network?

Google plans to shut down its consumer-oriented Google+ social networking service and focus on a corporate social network for enterprise customers. The tech giant made the announcement last week after it was revealed the company failed to disclose a security breach that exposed the data of nearly 500,000 Google+ users.

Google will phase out Google+ consumer accounts over a 10-month period, while it focuses on adding new features to the enterprise version, according to Ben Smith, vice president of engineering at Google.

“Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network,” Smith wrote in a blog.

But Google+ in the enterprise may be a tough sell. Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar said most corporate social network tools, such as Jive and Yammer, have “faded away.” Others, such as Igloo and Sitrion, have shifted their focus toward digital workplace platforms.

“Workplace by Facebook has been the only social platform we’ve seen growing,” he said. Google+ is included as part of G Suite, a cloud-based collaboration and productivity platform. In Google+, users can join communities, follow other users and share content, such as photos and videos.

Google could provide a Workplace-like experience with Google+ as a digital hub for all G Suite apps, Lazar said. To succeed as a digital hub, Google would need to focus on the core user experience rather than delivering Google+ as another app within G Suite.

Google could also take a page from Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn in 2016. Microsoft has tried to meld LinkedIn’s professional networking features with Office 365 through directory and calendar integrations and new collaboration capabilities, such as co-authoring documents with LinkedIn connections. However, Lazar said Google tends to deliver its applications independently rather than taking a unified approach like Microsoft has with Office 365 and Teams.

Regaining customer trust after the breach

Security is a major issue that Google will need to address with Google+ as a corporate social network. Google did not immediately disclose the API security breach that leaked user data, including names, email addresses and birth dates. The breach was discovered and patched in March 2018.

“That’s a black eye for Google and raises issues with trust with businesses,” Lazar said. “They will have to spend some time regaining that trust.”

Smith said the enterprise version of Google+ will offer security features such as setting common access rules and central controls.

Google has also made its alert center for G Suite publicly available following a beta in September. The alert center brings security alerts and actions under one interface. The service will also notify users when Google itself is investigating G Suite security issues that could affect a business.