So Google+ is officially shutting down. This is a shame, as it was certainly one of the better quality social platforms in terms of both audience and content even though (and perhaps because) it never attracted a mainstream audience.
Google has a history of creating a product, getting people to use it and then unceremoniously yanking it out from under them when they grow bored with it, or the original developer has moved on to other things. Google Reader was perhaps their most infamous example, but also Inbox and now G+. While I understand that Google has a development model that experiments with lots of things to see what works, eventually (supposedly) incorporating the best bits into mainstreams products (some features of Inbox are now part of Gmail), the jarring effect to users when a product they have invested time and energy in is unceremoniously disappeared is not pleasant. I will certainly think twice about considering any new Google product in the future on the basis that past experience suggests that it’s more than likely going to be a waste of my time. I will also actively be looking for Google alternatives to all of my existing online resources precisely because I no longer have confidence that they will not themselves become future victims of Google’s capriciousness.
And of course this is not limited to Google, but to any centralised organisation to whom we trust our online lives. In giving a centralised organisation power over our lives we are opening ourselves up to this risk, whether it be our data in Google or Facebook, or our freedom and property at the mercy of the monopolistic state.
This is why decentralisation is so important for the future of so many areas of our lives, including where our data is stored. As part of the great G+ diaspora I will be looking for alternatives that are, at the very least, based on open source code, but also preferably of a distributed nature and with a clear anti-censorship policy. I do not want to be told by self appointed gatekeepers what I may see or hear, nor to be limited in whom I may associate with because it offends the sensibilities of a third party.
There are many more. It will be interesting to see which succeeds in gaining market share over the longer term, and whether the distributed ones have better longevity or market reach. Or perhaps there will be differentiation and specialisation (bless the market) and that the days of monolithic media sites are finally and thankfully drawing to a close.
I will be reducing my Facebook and Twitter presence over time. While they may not suffer the same fate as Google+ (at least for now, and certainly Twitter has issues), both are plagued by the same social justice bias that seems to have infected all of the major social tech companies as they attempt to virtue-signal themselves into oblivion. I can only look forward to their demise as they are crowding out the more open and resilient platforms that we will need going forward to give us back control over our online lives.