Google+, for all the criticism it has garnered from the "hip" tech crowd, has been an incredibly important product for the search giant since its unveiling back in 2011. Remember when you had to get an invite to join Google+? How far we've come.

But Google+ quickly became more than just Google+. The Hangouts messaging platform and, later, Google+ Photos were key leaps forward for Google in two areas where the company was arguably becoming stagnant. Google Talk, for all of the love it got over the years, was aging poorly, and Hangouts made for a much more modern, fully-featured (you know, aside from statuses) replacement with robust video and voice capabilities. Google+ Photos hasn't made quite the splash Hangouts has, but the man who acted as the managerial spearhead and philosophical lead for the platform, Vic Gundotra, made photos a priority in the year leading up to his departure.

Robust editing tools, Auto-Awesome, and a visual-focused design for the social network have made Google+ an excellent place to share photos - I know I use it for this all the time.

According to Bloomberg, that success isn't going unnoticed. There are allegedly plans to fully separate the Photos platform from Google+, and potentially rebrand it into something more broadly-available (like, I don't know, Google Photos?), and without the requirement of a Google+ account. Curious indeed.

With Gundotra gone, Google's upper management is likely much freer to explore this possibility, and create a product to compete with the likes of Flickr and Instagram more directly. Uncoupling the product from Google+ would almost definitely allow a more involved editing process, potentially getting Google in the ring with the likes of Lightroom. Google's heavy focus on developing web-friendly products would fit perfectly into such a scheme, and could turn Photos into a legitimate photography tool for Chrome OS and Android.

As far as additional detail, Bloomberg doesn't really have any to share. It's also worth nothing that I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time this rumor's been through the mill, so take it all with a grain of salt.