When the head of Google+, Vic Gundotra, decided to leave Google after 8 years the speculation surrounding Google+'s future began: Google+ is Walking Dead, Minus Its Leader, What's Left at Google+, and Google+ Isn't Dead. Its Just in a Coma and on Life Support. Google's social offering is a beautifully designed social network with strong photo,video, and chat features plus a powerful audience system built around circles allowing users to selectively share across different groups. The company has also spent much energy embedding the Google+ service into other Google products making Google+ the defacto sign-in for Google services. However, as the NY Times reported earlier this year these efforts have not necessarily built a social network to rival Facebook. Though as that article mentions Google+'s value to Google is not as a social network (at-least not really). The services real value to the company is a data river providing important social data across their different services.
The data that Google gathers through Google+ has unmeasurable value though Google doesn't need to manage a social network to maintain access to that data. Rather than creating their own platform Google could instead manage the pipes that bring the content to other services. Google could be the digital hub where users push their content (i.e. posts, videos, chats, etc.) out to other services, and networks. This builds on Googles strengths within Google Plus: photos, hangouts, and identify while maintaining access to the the social data they value to build out their services like search. Users benefit by being able to interact on their favorite social network (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and/or service where their communities reside. Social networks shift and change as users migrate and tastes changes. Through building the digital pipes that connects different services Google can cement their access to social data and provide users with a valuable service.