Google+ May Finally Matter Thanks To YouTube Comments

You didn’t really need a Google+ account until now. You might have one whether you wanted it or not. But YouTube’s new commenting system requires a presence on Google+. And there’s no real alternative to YouTube for video. Google+ may have mattered before in theory, but now it matters in practice.
Google+ is really a social identity data layer designed to help Google personalize all your products and improve ad targeting. The more it knows about you, the better it is at giving you a good experience and making money. Long-term, social is not an option for the search giant. It’s a necessity.
Before Google+, Google knew who you emailed and maybe Gchatted with. Depending on whether you browsed while signed in to a Google account, it would know what you searched for and mapped. If you were on Android or used its other products, it might have known a bit more. But it didn’t know or had to guess about your age, education and work history, interests, and social graph.
So Google+ launched in 2011 under the guise of a social network. That’s a convenient way for a company to get you to volunteer a ton of information about yourself. Personalize a profile with biographical info, add friends and colleagues, follow brands, and +1 and comment on your feed.
Sounds great, seven years late. Facebook and Twitter handled much of this and had already built strong network effects. You could go elsewhere for social networking, so didn’t you need a Google+ account yet and Google wasn’t getting the juicy data it wanted.
Google began requiring a Google+ account to sign up for Gmail at the start of 2012. Many would argue that Gmail is the best email provider, but there are alternatives. And if you did end up with a Google+ account (though not yet required for Gmail users), there wasn’t anywhere it was mandatory to use. Even passively, though, having a G+ account lets Google start tying usage data from across its products to your identity.