Google's new Photos and Streams chief signals changes ahead for Google+

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Google+ champion Vic Gundotra left the company almost a year ago, and Google’s social network hasn’t been the same since. It looks like more big changes are ahead: G+ product VP Bradley Horowitz is stepping up to lead Photos and Streams, a newly created area that curiously makes no mention of Google+.

That doesn’t mean the network is disappearing. Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior VP of products, hinted at the future of Google+ in a Monday morning talk at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“Google+ was always two things: a stream and a social layer,” Pichai said. “The stream has a passionate community of users, but the second goal was larger for us. We’re at a point where things like photos and communications are very important. We’re reorganizing around that.”

Photos move to the forefront

Photos have long been at the core of Google+, and the company has emphasized that with regular product updates that make it easier to edit, share, and back up photos using the service. Those tools have helped G+ carve out a niche when the network was combating a reputation as a Facebook also-ran.

Google surprised longtime spectators by originally skipping over Horowitz, who helped create Google+, in favor of promoting engineering VP David Besbris when Gundotra left. It’s unclear why Besbris decided to give up the role, but Horowitz confirmed Sunday night that he is now leading whatever it is that Google+ will become.

In a recent Forbes interview, Pichai said he considers Google+ not one big product, but three distinct areas of focus for Google going forward. Hangouts, photos, and the Google+ stream, or the network as you currently see it, are bundled together but also have separate purposes and corresponding apps. But if Google takes its excellent photo features out of G+, will the network still have a purpose? Horowitz didn't say what his plans for the new Photos and Streams department are, but the new name indicates changes ahead.

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