The abrupt departure of Google+ creator Vic Gundotra from the beleaguered social network led to immediate speculation that its days as a competitor to Facebook and Twitter are numbered. Indeed, media reports have asserted that Google+ is being chopped up for parts or, at the very least, undergoing a strategic review. Google, for its part, denies any plans to change its strategy with Google+. But now comes evidence that the company is indeed exploring a future where Google+ branding gradually fades into the background. Some developers implementing Google+ logins on their websites are now seeing an option to add a "sign in with Google" button, according to people who The Verge has spoken with. Screenshots show a simple blue button with a white Google "g" logo and the words "sign in" or "sign in with Google."

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The option appears to have been enabled for only a small number of developers, and for now is only visible to developers who are logged in through their developer accounts. Other Google users visiting web pages through their own browsers would still see a red button with the Google+ logo. The company confirmed the experiment to The Verge:  "We are always testing things," a spokeswoman said.

"We are always testing things."

If Google rolls out the new button more widely, it would reflect the next step in a change the company began in December. That was when Google expanded the types of accounts that can log into websites and apps using the Google+ platform. In addition to the Google+ accounts that are now the default for new users, Google still has separate accounts for users of Google Apps and older Google accounts that do not connect to the social network. Since December, the single sign-on button has supported all three account types. In that sense, the blue button just offers a fuller picture of what Google's identity platform now encompasses.

But it also suggests that the company no longer wants Google+ to represent it around the web. Google's brand is much stronger than that of its social network, and some developers may be more comfortable adding a generic Google login to their sites and apps. Given those facts, the blue button may be better for Google as it competes with Facebook, Twitter, and others for single sign-on supremacy. But rolling it out will only reinforce the perception that the best days of Google+ are behind it.