Google has stopped pushing Google+ on new Gmail users by adding an option to opt out during the sign-up process, raising more speculation about the social network's future.

Google now offers a "no thanks" option to Google+ during the Gmail account set-up process. This is a departure from the two-and-a-half years of mandatory Google+ account creation that has lumbered Gmail users with a social media profile that they might not have wanted since January 2012.

Google has kept quiet about the move, allowing users to stumble across the change rather than announcing it publicly.

But people wishing to use other Google services with a social layer will need to create a Google+ account.

In a widely reported statement Google said: "We updated the sign-up experience in early September. Users can now create a public profile during sign-up, or later, if and when they share public content for the first time (like a restaurant review, YouTube video or Google+ post)."

Unfortunately for Google, its attempt to take on the likes of Facebook with Google+ fell flat, as the social network failed to gain the attention of internet users. Google+ was not the firm's first attempt at a social media product, and Google abandoned its Orkut social service back in July.