Nonplussed: Why I'll miss Google+, the best of all social networks

Really, Google? I know not many of us used your Google+ social network, but those of us who did use it really, really liked it.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

My first reaction to hearing that Google was closing down its Google+ social network was: "WTH!" But after a moment's thought I understood why they did it and it's not the reason Google gave for shutting it down.

Yes, Google admitted that there was a security hole in the Google+ People application programming interface (API). And, yes, it's possible that 500,000 users' data was exposed by this hole. But Google found zero evidence that anyone had actually exploited that security hole. So I don't believe for a second that Google decided to close Google+ down for this security hole.

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No, what I think happened is Google did a cost/benefit analysis of Google+ in a time when the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) makes violating privacy hugely expensive and they said: "Forget this!"

Facebook, for example, for its latest security snafu is looking at a fine of over a billion-and-a-half dollars. When you're talking those kind of numbers even Google and Facebook take notice.

Another reason for this decision is that, as you may remember, Google insisted that Google+ members login with their real names. While this "real name" policy annoyed the heck out of many people, it also gave Google access to hundreds of millions of real names. For a company that lives and breathes personal data for its profits, that's a big deal.

For all that it collects data like a bandit, Google has a curious failing. As my friend and fellow writer, Mike Elgan noted, "Google's M.O. is to launch some new product or service with great fanfare, convince it's loyal fans to go all-in, allow those fans to devote countless hours with the product, then kill the product and leave the devoted fans with nothing. ... The closure of Google+ is the biggest slap in the face ever, by far. Google told us Google+ was the future of Google. So we jumped in and engaged. Personally, I've spent thousands of hours lovely crafting publication-quality opinion pieces. This is what I do for a living, and I gave my time and labor over to Google+ for free. Now, Google is going to flush all my work down the toilet."

He's right. Despite his efforts and those of other people who were passionate Google+ users, Google did less and less with the network. Google+ was a long neglected part of Google's kingdom. It was only a matter of time before Google would pull its plug.

Google+'s official death won't come until August 2019. But all that will happen in the next few months will be those few loyalists left pulling up stakes to try to find some other online place to live.

I, and a few other people, think Google+ is the best of all social networks. Heck, I thought Google+ could displace Facebook. Boy, was I wrong. Based on what I see on Google+, maybe one in thirty users who were there in 2011 are still hanging out in 2018.

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So why do I still love it? Because while Facebook is great for seeing pictures of my grandkids, Twitter is good for keeping track of news as it's happening, and LinkedIn is dandy for business connections, Google+ was the one network where I could have intelligent conversations about technology.

I have over 30,000 Google+ followers. Now no more than a thousand are still active today, but we still have reasonable, polite (Yes, polite!) discussions about Linux, open-source software, networking and security issues.

That's largely because Google+ gives you great control over your messages. You can delete message threads, individual messages, and block trolls with the greatest of ease. You can't do any of this effectively on any of the other major social networks.

Frankly, when it comes to managing online conversations, our technology has gotten worse. I had far more control over my CompuServe forums and Interchange in the late 80s and early 90s than I ever did on any of today's social networks

Still, as someone who values intelligent online communication, I'm going to miss Google+ a lot. There may have only been a handful of us left on the platform, but those loyal few of us who were left really liked it a lot.

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