The reality is finally sinking in: the demise of Google+ is imminent. Google+ will be shut down on April 2, 2019. Not everyone is mourning the loss, but for some, it’s a loss of community and the loss of an alternative or adjunct to Facebook. Though the press pounced on Google’s erasure of its “Don’t be evil” motto from its official Code of Conduct, others pointed out that this might signal a subtle but important shift: that “don’t be bad” is not as inspiring as “do the right thing.”
There is a Google+ community, called Google+ Mass Migration, devoted to helping people transition elsewhere. As their tagline says, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
On the one hand, a centralized platform like Facebook that has a user base larger than the population of most countries, makes sense. It does connect people, but sometimes does so as if we’re all just dots on a map. In the article, “Everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason,” Nikhil Sonnad writes:
…the imperative to “connect people” lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them. The billions of Facebook accounts belong not to “people” but to “users,” collections of data points connected to other collections of data points on a vast Social Network, to be targeted and monetized by computer programs.
There are certain things you do not in good conscience do to humans. To data, you can do whatever you like.
Remember, there will always be a price for the kind of connection social media offers. Trust, once destroyed, cannot easily be rebuilt. But there are new platforms being built by people who understand how social media can be abused, and they are trying, at least, to mitigate the biggest security issues and privacy concerns.
A Google+ Alternative
At Google+ Mass Migration, I found two possible alternatives to Google+. One, called OpenBook, was crowdfunded into existence, and describes both free and premium plans, but won’t be open to beta testers until March. I have applied for the beta program, and will update you once I know more.
The other, Diaspora*, has been around for years. If you’re interested in trying it out, click here to join me on Pluspora.com, one of a large number of “pods” or federated instances of Diaspora*. In that sense, it’s similar to Mastodon, which is more of a Twitter alternative. I like the community guidelines on Diaspora*, though I do wonder just how long it will be before someone abuses them. An excerpt from the simple, straightforward terms:
- Use welcoming and inclusive language.
- Be respectful of differing viewpoints and experiences.
- Gracefully accept constructive criticism.
- Show empathy towards other community members.
- Avoid sexualized or violent language and imagery, and don’t give unwelcome sexual attention or make advances.
- Don’t troll, post insulting or derogatory comments, or attack other community members.
- Don’t harass people, either in public or in private!
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. You might be wrongly interpreting what they have said.
You should also be aware that certain legislation being contemplated in the EU puts these alternative networks – some of which are being developed outside the US, where GDPR protections are much stricter than within the US – at risk. Read European Copyright Reform: Article 13 puts alternative social networks at risk. It seems this would do away with the current “safe harbor” provisions of the DMCA, and put web hosts and social networks in an untenable position, making them responsible for copyright violations even before they receive notice of them. While I’m all for stronger copyright protections for creators, and an easier claims process with better enforcement of existing laws and treaties, I think this is unrealistic and anti-competitive. It’s also rife with possibilities for abuse, and I hope that penalties for fraudulent copyright claims are also stiff.
There’s no reliable mobile app, yet (the one on Google Play hasn’t been updated in three years, and no longer appears to have any real support), but the site itself is mobile friendly, so there’s no urgent need for one. Here’s a screenshot from Chrome on Android:
“Aspects” are the equivalent of Friend Lists on Facebook, or Circles on Google+. Tags work much the same as they do on Twitter.
At any rate, do give it a try – see for yourself that there are alternatives, and good ones. You can choose from any number of “pods” hosted in various countries – to see the details, go to https://podupti.me/. They’re all “federated,” so it’s really just a matter of choosing which one hosts your personal information. I chose Pluspora because it’s in the EU, and has to comply with GDPR. Note that Diaspora* and OpenBook are not alternatives for commercial interests – and that while self-promotion isn’t banned on Diaspora*, the suggestion is no more than 1 self-promo post to 50 purely social posts. Sounds refreshing, doesn’t it?