Google exec hints at Photos, Hangouts and G+ split

Rumors have long suggested that Google might separate the parts of Google+ that people have been most interested in -- photos and messaging / Hangouts -- away from the social network's main stream. Now it appears that Sundar Pichai agrees with that viewpoint, but unlike angry YouTube commenters, he can actually do something about it since he controls Google products like Plus, search, Chrome and Android. In a pre-Mobile World Congress interview with Forbes, Pichai said that going forward, we'll see the company deal with Hangouts, photos and the Google+ stream as three "important" areas, instead of one. While Google+ has apparently done the job of creating a common login and identity across products, he says the team is working on "next generation" ideas to create "more scale at what we do."

Q: Should we expect Google+ to remain as one big product?
A: I think increasingly you'll see us focus on communications [Hangouts], photos and the Google+ stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area.

That sounds like good news for users already encouraged by Google backing off on forcing Google+ signups during Gmail registration, for example, or those who enjoy its photo features but not the community tie-ins. Ever since Vic Gundotra left Google the project's leadership has fallen to Dave Besbris, who called out "Photos, Hangouts, Google+" as his top three priorities in an interview with Re/code last fall. Besbris also claimed a big problem with the product is confusion by users about what it's supposed to be, and now Pichai is following up by saying "We don't expect Google as a first party service to provide all the answers."