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The NOT Facebook

Let’s get one thing clear right up front: I hate Facebook. There’s only one reason on this planet that I even have an account there: My friends and kids are there and nowhere else. So if I want to stay in touch with them, that’s where I have to go. They’re lemmings; they don’t care how much information they’re handing Mark Zuckerberg. They are, in fact, his kind of people. Me? I’ve installed every kind of anti-Facebook snooping app I can find; I don’t play their silly games—which are really just information harvesting scams; I go, I read, I post and reply and get off. I’ve even quit using their chat and private mail function since they recently decided you can no longer delete anything. All you can do is ‘archive’ chat streams and private mail. (And I use the term ‘private’ very loosely here. This is Facebook, after all.)

So I was delighted to see the launch of Google+. I’m already in bed with Google so deeply I can’t even see straight. I run an Android phone; my contact list is synced to Google Contacts; my appointment scheduler is Google Calendar—synced, of course; my todo list is via Google Calendar; many the documents I reference regularly are stored in Google Docs; my photo albums are synced to Picasa; and lately for some of the ebooks I need to regularly reference I’ve turned to Google Books.

So Google+? Hell yeah! Social media needs a fresh face. On Twitter, which I use solely for marketing my company, I under share and even then am very conscious about what I tweet. With Facebook, because it’s Facebook, everything is public, and you have to assume that even if you make it private, it’s in one way or another public. So there, Zuckerberg gives you no choice but to over share. Google+, by design, seemed like the perfect alternative. In fact, it seemed Google had positioned itself rather uniquely. Between the circles concept and Google’s Safe Search technology, Google+ could not only allow you to be as private or as public as you chose, it would also allow those who wanted to, to safely post adult content.

Then Google got stupid. First, they decided right after the Google+ roll-out that everyone—yes everyone— had to have their real name in their Google profile. Never mind that I could put ‘John Smith’ in as my real name and Google wouldn’t know the difference. Accounts using obvious aliases (and maybe for good reason, though it’s none of Google’s damned business) began being suspended. Second, rather than taking advantage of the already deployed technology of Safe Search, Google decided to prohibit adult content on Google+. Content they could easily filter using Safe Search. Between the two, the anger and frustration being directed at Google by new Google+ users has been vociferous. Just yesterday one user, whose account had been suspended for four days, posted “fuck you Google+; come follow me on Twitter everybody…”

So in the end, while Google+ has a nice feature called Circles, in all other respects it’s rapidly becoming little more than Facebook II, complete with bad reputation. What few differences there were are shrinking every day. Even the information harvesting games the Facebook lemmings enjoy are being rolled out on Google+. In fact, it sounds like many of them will even be the same games, retooled for the Google platform. All of which means Google+ chances of steamrolling right over the top of Facebook, a chance I and many others originally counted as very good, are shrinking fast.

If I were Google, I would seriously reassess a few policies if my goal with Google+ was to retake the top spot as the stickiest, most visited website in the world. We do need a new and better alternative to Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, as currently being deployed, Google+ isn’t going to be it.

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