(Credit: Google)

If you were one of those who embraced Google+ as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, the time has come to say goodbye to Google's last attempt to create an online community that tied together its users and various apps and services.

On April 2, Google intends to shutdown Google+ for consumers. It intends to rework the social network for enterprise customers, it said.

Why is this happening?

Google has said it closing Google+ because the service isn't well used, making it difficult to maintain to the high standards people would expect.

SEE: Newly discovered Google Chrome security flaw requires immediate update

But there may be other factors at play as well. Google+ suffered a major data leak in March 2018 and not long after announced the closure of Google+ by August 2019.

Then, in December 2018, Google said it had discovered a bug in a Google+ API in November. The post said "No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way." Still, this prompted Google to bring the closure of Google+ forward, to April 2019.

Unsure if you have a Google+ account?

Google said it email everyone who has a consumer Google+ account. For peace of mind you can check if you have an account with these simple steps:

  • Visit plus.google.com.
  • Log in with your Google account.
  • Check the top left of the screen. If the button there says "Join Google+" then you don't have a Google+ account. If there's a banner saying "Your Google+ account is going away on April 2 2019" then you have a Google+ account.

All of this only affects consumer grade Google+. If you are a G Suite customer then Google+ will continue to be available -- and there is much more information about this online.

What will happen when Google+ closes?

  • Your Google+ account will be deleted.
  • Any Google + pages you have created will be deleted.
  • All content will be deleted from consumer Google+ accounts.
  • Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive will be deleted.
  • Any followers you have on Google+ will be unable to stay in touch through Google+. So decide now whether you want to keep in touch with them and how you can do this -- you could post something with alternative ways to follow you so that will be available from now till Google+ closes, for example.

What will the effects be on other Google sites and services?

Other Google services you use may be affected, depending on how you have used Google+. For example:

  • Any events created in Google+ and birthdays of people in your Google Circles won't show up on your Google Calendar. If you've created events or Google Circles friends birthdays directly in Google Calendar, they won't be deleted
  • Blogger sites and other sites that use Google+ for comments will have their comments deleted. You can download the comments as part of the process of saving your data -- see below for more on that.

What about your Google account?

Your standard Google account won't be deleted or affected in any way, and other Google services won't be affected either (except where they use Google+ data).

For example, these services will not be affected:

  • Google Photos
  • Gmail
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Google Drive
  • Your gmail email address

How to download your Google+ data

If you get an email or otherwise discover you do have an account but didn't know it, then don't worry. You probably created an account at some time when Google was making one mandatory to take advantage of some other Google service and then forgot about it.

Still, there's no harm in downloading your Google+ data and checking it -- just to be on the safe side that nothing important you have forgotten about will disappear forever.

Let's download our stuff: Visit this page, which will give you a little background detail and provide a link to Download Your Data. You can make choices depending on how you want to organize your downloads. You have two methods.

  • Download all your data at once. Or ...
  • Download specific data by making a checkmark beside the type of data you want to download, including from your circles and communities you manage or moderate.

Note: Any photos you uploaded to the service are part of your Google+ Stream. Make sure you click the check box that says "All Google+ Stream data included," and make sure that Photos are ticked. If there are types of data you don't want to save, just uncheck them from the list.

Different data is downloaded in different formats. Make a note of the format. For example, your Google Circles are saved as vCard data -- you can import these into other contact apps or web sites.

When you're happy, click Next Step and you need to make some decisions:

  • Choose how you want your data delivered -- you can get a download link sent to email or have the download added to your Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or Box account.
  • Pick a data format -- .zip or .tgz. Both of these are compressed file formats.
  • Decide on a size beyond which archives will be split into multiple files. If you have a slow download connection, you might want to split the file size.
  • Click to Create Archive. Depending on how much data you have the process might take a while, so be prepared to wait.
  • You can download your archive immediately after it's available or wait a few days and fetch it later.
  • Once you have downloaded your archive, you can open the compressed file and within it you will see folders containing the different data types. Make sure you back these up carefully, and you can upload them into whatever apps or web services you wish.

Act now

Google+ won't disappear entirely overnight on April 2. The job of deleting all the accounts and removing all content will take the backroom team at Google a while.

So if you return to Google+ after April 2, you might see content from your account still there.

But don't let that make you complacent. Aim to have everything you need downloaded by that April deadline for total confidence that your data is all safe and sound.

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Sandra Vogel is a contributing writer for ZDNet and CNET's Download.com. She writes about mobile technology, the latest apps, Microsoft Windows, and more.