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Google+ (or, Why Do I Want to Leave Facebook?)

2011-06-29 3 min read Web marco

Well, no sooner had I posted my update on Facebook, that I had lost all my pictures uploaded with KIPI (the KDE plugin for Facebook) that I learned that Google is trying to crush its “evil” competitor again. Google+ is the company’s latest attempt at social networking, and it’s made a big splash in the blogosphere – probably mostly because it’s a private beta, invitation only, and the blogosphere can gush all about the exclusivity of it.

Going by the descriptions of it, Google has spent considerable time figuring out the weaknesses of Facebook and made a concerted effort to remedy. From my perspective, the three major problems of current Facebook:

  1. You have no way to get data out of Facebook if you wanted to leave
  2. You have no control over changes to the visibility of data
  3. You have no real concept of friendship types

Google+ seems to have dealt with all three issues (the fourth, vexing one is the frequency of radical redesigns, something that doesn’t bother me as much).

Google+ provides a data export widget. It’s unclear at this point what it would export to, but as soon as there is ANY standard, every other software on the planet will accept it.

Google promises strict privacy controls. It has also been much better than Facebook at keeping privacy controls constant – unlike Facebook, that arbitrarily decides to make things visible that weren’t visible before (e.g. the Likes).

Google also seems to have decided to treat friendship groups as they should be treated – as primary instead of occasional. For instance, there are typically things that I would want to tell my family but not my coworkers. Other things I would share with my friends but not with my acquaintances. Finally, there are some things I am fine my connections to see, but not the whole world.

In Facebook, dealing with this is a huge pain, which simply proves that Facebook people are overly transparent and ultimately dull. It’s the Zuckerbergs of the world, the ones that don’t have anything to hide because they don’t have anything.

Do I have things to hide? Sure enough! I don’t want the whole world to know I am in Hawai`i, because I don’t want potential burglars to have access to that information. I don’t want Internet acquaintances to have my home address, because I barely know them and there are a few nutbags out there.

In a similar vein, there are things that I want my coworkers to know but don’t have to tell my family. Things I want my fans to know but that I don’t have to bother my friends with, like promotional events.

In general, though, my main problem with Facebook has always been that they seem not to care an ounce about their users. We are all an aggregate to them and complaints are left unanswered. I recall in the early days, when they started pushing social interactivity apps and you suddenly could message random strangers – Facebook would cut you off without recourse because you had sent more than five messages without a reply.

Then there was the day we discovered that a change in policy had made information we had declared private, public. Then there was the day we found out Facebook was going to sell our Likes for companies to target marketing campaigns (and you had given Facebook your real email address, phone number, and street address, right?). Then there was the day my pictures disappeared because Facebook declared it didn’t like the plugin with which I had uploaded them.

If Facebook disappears from the face of the earth, consumed by a hundred rivals, you won’t see me crying.