Saturday, January 26, 2019

Wisdom Of The Week

So, what happened? There are lots of different theories, but in my view it was simply bad management.

In April 2014, Vic Gundotra stepped down as head of Google+ in response to the company’s decision to deemphasize the service as a centralizing social layer for all its offerings. David Besbris stepped in for a while and was then replaced by Bradley Horowitz. Then things get murky. There was Luke Wroblewski, whose title was never really clear, but who was responsible for driving the mobile-first design and strategy linked to the disastrous redesign of the service in November 2015. Wroblewski left without any public mention and the company simply stopped talking publicly about who was overseeing the network.

These changes in management resulted in numerous twists and turns in Google+ strategy that, much like the layers of an archeological dig, are still visible today in the user interface. All this turmoil simply leaked the life out of the network. Employees with a strong vision and passion for the service eventually left and over time, many of its biggest user advocates simply dropped away. Over the last three years, there have been virtually no new features added to the network and it is badly overrun by spam that should be easily controllable by a company with the technology chops of Google. The service, in short, was abandoned: first by management and eventually by the community.


Most frustrating is the fact that the data on the people you follow is incredibly sparse. It includes a first name and last name and a link to a Google+ user profile web address but there is no guarantee will continue to exist after April. So, basically, our connections with others are lost. I had over 50,000 people following me on Google+. That took a lot of work to build up that following for my writing, and now it is simply gone.

In mid-December, not long after the December 10th announcement, I worked with a handful of volunteers to gather questions from the community about the shutdown process, which we compiled into a document on Google Drive. I then worked some back channels to try to get these concerns into the right hands at Google. Weeks have gone by, the April shutdown looms closer and closer, people are looking for answers about what to do with all their investments in this network, and there is still not a word of clarification from Google.

The way the company has treated its users represents a complete failure of leadership on the part of Google.

The main lesson of Google+ is that it’s time to stop trusting our creations and our relationships to companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, in the hopes that they will do the right thing with them. They will do the right thing as long as it maps to their primary purpose, which is maximizing returns for their shareholders. When that stops being true, well, then, that assumption of trust disappears. Google+ demonstrates this problem more vividly than any product or service shutdown that I can remember.

That is why I am closely tracking what Tim Berners-Lee is doing with Solid. It’s time to liberate our data and our social ties and social contributions are an important part of that effort.

- The Fall of Google Plus

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