Comment Now that Google's "network thingy" is melded into the web giant's product line-up, the man behind Google+ Vic Gundotra has quit Mountain View to pursue a yet-to-be-revealed new venture.
Arguably, his work is largely done at Google, a company that has routinely shied away from describing Google+ as a social network.
In 2012, Gundotra skirted around that label by instead claiming to have built the "the fastest growing network thingy ever."
But what exactly is the "thingy" he spoke of?
Google+ was created in the aftermath of bumbling efforts from Google to knit together its vast online estate by slurping up user identities that it could then follow around the web.
The purpose was to target ads at them by pushing for Gmail users to have the same ID on YouTube, for example. This is now finally a reality, courtesy of Google+.
But Google has spent years building its ID silo, after its Buzz blunder, significantly overseen by Gundotra, led to the company being berated for failing to offer appropriate privacy controls for those users not keen to overshare via their email accounts.
Google's efforts to slurp up IDs via its Gmail product was effectively derailed because the ad giant's strategy was wrong.
With Google+, it fixed that screwup. Over the last three years since it débuted, the company has painstakingly chiselled away at its products and very slowly slipped its "network thingy" into more and more of its estate.
In January, Digg founder Kevin Rose - who had worked on the development of Google+ - said that it was wrong for the company to link Google+ to Gmail. He added: "If Google+ users need to communicate, build an internal messaging tool."
But using Google+ as a social network is really just a side-effect of its main purpose: to build an identity system for Google.
It now has 540 million such profiles, of which around 300 million people are said to be active in the Google+ "stream".
With half a billion IDs slurped, the job of Google+ is largely done. Consider too that any users of Google products are now nudged into creating a profile that they use across the multinational's estate and it becomes clear that Google now has a burgeoning network - not of engagement on Google+ - but of identities.
According to Gundotra, that news is for another day.
Google boss Larry Page, meanwhile, said on Thursday: "We’ll continue working hard to build great new experiences for the ever increasing number of Google+ fans." ®