Google+, the interest network

Even though Drew is sick of my relentless focus on Google+, for some reason I can’t stop picking apart its every move in an effort to understand where it’s headed. Today, with the release of Google + 4.8.0 for iOS, there’s a big hint — and it’s not surprisingly directed towards communities and interests.

Consider the iTunes app screenshots for the preview version 4.7.4:

The order is: stream, photo backup, photo editing, Stories, and communities.

The description of 4.7.4 reinforces this:

Stay connected and share life as it happens with Google+ for iPhone and iPad.
Features:
- Follow what friends, family, and interesting people around the world are sharing
- Join communities to explore interests and find people with similar passions
- Automatically back up photos and videos at full resolution
- Bring photos to life with Auto Awesome, including animated GIFs, movies, stories and more

Compare this to the 4.8.0 screenshots:

Now the emphasis is on the interest-based stream, communities, topics coupled with photo backup and search. Here’s the app description for 4.8.0:

Get way into what you love on Google+. Start exploring today!
• Explore topics you’re interested in
• Connect with people who share your interests
• Fill your stream with great content by following interesting people, pages, and communities
• Join communities to connect with people around all kinds of topics
• Follow your curiosity using search, trending topics, and What’s Hot
• Share rich posts with your followers
Google+ Photos
• Back up all your photos and videos
• Find the right photo fast with image search
• Enhance photos in a flash and get creative with easy editing tools
• See moments brought to life as Stories, Movies, animations, and more

It’s a strange set of features for one app — interests and photos — but the shift towards topical interests (and away from personal or private sharing) is clear.

Even though there was no official announcement from Google+ explaining what these changes mean, I read it as a clear strategic shift away from competing with Facebook on private sharing, and moving towards competing with Pinterest and/or Instagram/WhatsApp and Snapchat. I could be wrong, but this seems like the kind of repositioning I was looking for.


Addendum

I just setup a new Google Apps for Business account and received this email from the Google+ team with the subject “Getting started on Google+”:

I don’t think this has changed in a long time — not since I left anyway (I found this email in my old NeonMob email account from 8/5/2013). This definitely paints a different picture than the current iOS screenshots!