Google Starts Divorcing Google+

When is a social network not a social network? When "using" a social network is a requirement to access services you really wanted to use. Like email. Or videos.

This is common sense to most people, but not at Google, which spent years insisting that its Google+ ghost town was really a thriving metropolis, in large part because people who used other Google services were using Google+ to sign onto those services. Then again, for years, Google users haven't had a choice — Google insisted that they use Google+ when they used other services.

The Google Plus social network logo is seen in the company's offices in Berlin last August.
Adam Berry | Getty Images
The Google Plus social network logo is seen in the company's offices in Berlin last August.

What fun! But apparently the departure of former Google exec Vic Gundotra gave Google air cover to reassess the merits of force-feeding a social network. And now, a year-plus later, they have decided it is a bad idea.

Read MoreForget about Google; buy Facebook: Scott Kessler

"While we got certain things right, we made a few choices that, in hindsight, we've needed to rethink," said former Google+ boss Bradley Horowitz, now VP of streams, photos, and sharing, in a blog post.

Net result: Google has already been splitting Google+ from its Google Photos app. Now it is no longer requiring YouTube commenters to use Google+ before they sign on. (Separately, YouTube says it is making progress in cleaning up what can be a cesspool in its own comments — but it still has a lot of work to do.)

More to come, says Horowitz. About time.

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.