(Pocket-lint) - When you think of Google+, you likely think of three things: ghost town, photos, and Hangouts. Google has apparently realised that and is reportedly planning to shake things up a bit.

The team behind Google+ has been reluctant to discuss the social network's popularity, with Google+ boss Dave Besbris even telling Re/code last year that he didn't want to talk about numbers, but according to blogger Kevin Anderson, who looked at data compiled by Edward Morbius, only 9 per cent of Google+'s 2.2 billion users actively post public content. That means just 4-6 million people engage, interact, and post.

It's therefore no wonder that tech journalists use the "ghost town" metaphor to describe Google+. Although many will argue about whether Google+ is in fact thriving, few argue that two of the most interesting aspects about Google+ are the Photos and Hangouts features. It now appears as though Google wants to capatlise on their popularity by pulling them from Google+ and making everything into standalone products.

Sundar Pichai, a senior vice president at Google, recently told Forbes, for instance, that Google views Hangouts, Photos, and even the Google+ stream as three important areas, and because of that, the company is working on the "next generation" ideas. When asked if consumers can expect Google+ to remain as one product, Pichai gave the following somewhat-vague response:

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"I think increasingly you'll see us focus on communications [Hangouts], photos and the Google+ stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area," he said, alluding to a move that would involve Hangouts and Photos becoming their own thing.

Nothing is set in stone, though. All we know is that ever since Vic Gundotra left in 2014, Besbris has been in control of Google+. He similarly feels that Photos, Hangouts, and Google+ are top priorities at the company, and so with Pichai's new comments mirroring what Besbris believes, it's likely only a matter of time before we see Photos and Hangouts separated from Google+.

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Rumours from last year also claimed that Google was exploring ways to attract photo-savvy consumers who didn't use or engage on Google+. Bloomberg specifically claimed that Google+ Photos and its several editing features would continue to exist in Google+, but that the feature would one day be repackaged and rebranded for non-Google+ users as a separate product.

In other words: it looks like Google has spent too much time trying to encourage Google+ usage, and now it wants to make some of the social network's features more prominent and independent. It's not yet clear if Google is slowly phasing out four-year-old Google+ or if it simply wants to place an emphasis on the social network's standout features.

Writing by Elyse Betters.