Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Boycott Google Plus.

(via Google Plus, ironically)

Alright, time to walk back from the inflammatory title. But only kind of.

Here's the deal. I think 2012 made it apparent that Google Plus is not just a once-good idea that failed to gain traction, but a true nuisance. And 2013 is making it apparent that it's not just a nuisance, but a corroding influence that is destroying Google from within.

Let's look at the evidence.

The poster child for victims of Google Plus is Google Reader, which was sacrificed to fuel Google's Sisyphean effort to force people into using its failed social network (not because of declining use).

The second incident that comes to mind for me is Youtube, which recently fell victim to another Google Plus ploy. Ars Technica has a pretty good explanation of how — and why — Google managed to actually make Youtube's notorious comments worse. And it's a bigger deal than you might think, since many Youtube channels (usually the more thoughtful and worthwhile ones) relied on comments for their videos. They served as a communication channel to an actually useful and interesting community (SmarterEveryDay), or as high quality fodder for the videos themselves (PBS Idea Channel). Now, they're so worthless they're essentially gone.

Another example that hasn't been talked about as much is Picasa. As Nick Mokey of Digital Trends points out in his own "Downfall of Google" post, Google Plus took over Picasa and ironically made it harder to share photos. And it's the Google Plus-ification of Picasa that broke all the images on my blog recently.

It's downhill from here.

Combine these direct attacks on once-useful Google services with a general trend in Google's recent changes, and the picture is becoming clear: abandon ship. I've been noticing that all the recent redesigns of Google products tend to be worse than before, like the move from GChat to Hangouts. And it's actively taking back good things it did before: Ars presents a pretty definitive case that Google is trying to lock down and close-source Android.

This actually isn't a rally for some outraged boycott of Google Plus. It would be silly to get that indignant at something like this. But I am a bit exasperated that Google is taking a slew of excellent products and cannibalizing them in a desperate attempt to transform into something we never wanted: a locked-down social network. These products were good because they were designed with one top priority: make them useful for users. The more users, the more eyeballs for Google ads. But now it's apparent that their primary priority is to cash in on those useful products to railroad people into one they never wanted.

So my thinking is, let's consider pushing back. The harder they push, the more good services they wreck to force us to Google Plus, the more we should say "I refuse to use it for that reason." I'm not sure I'll even be able to leave it, but I can certainly reduce my involvement.

I'm also thinking of exit strategies from other Google products, just in the interest of self-preservation. The house isn't burning yet, but I smell smoke. Time to eye the exits.


Of course, the most immediately relevant product that I might leave is Blogspot. A look at the archives shows I haven't had much time to post recently. I've been getting pretty busy with other things going on in my life. Plus, I've been pondering other styles of blogs and other hosting solutions for a while. The incident with my images struck me as just another nice boot out the door. Apparently Google doesn't want me here, so I see no reason to stay.

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