Dan Gillmor: Are enthusiastic users of social networking sites giving up too much control?
Control, ownership and value are inextricably linked, but having one does not necessarily boost another. Exposure on a site you don't control may be worth more to you than lack of attention on a site you do. And you may find the social and professional connections you make and enjoy on third-party sites so useful that they're worth what you are giving up. But it's worth weighing the tradeoffs.
In many ways, we’re better off: publishing online is far easier, less time-consuming, and more accessible than it has ever been, which has brought content, voices, and consumers online that wouldn’t have been otherwise.
But all of these proprietary networks that want to own and hold in your content are reversing much of the web’s progress in some other areas, such as the durability and quality of online identity.
If you care about your online presence, you must own it.
There's no stopping the current transition from a computer-friendly web, which Google and its army of algorithms dominated, to a people-friendly web. But instead of remaining stuck on the outside, Google might have found its window just in time.
Still, it's almost impossible to tell where this is really headed. Facebook and Google are competing spheres on a collision course. In the past 10 years, we've seen the web morph from this linear, cataloged file cabinet of information, to being partitioned by gated social sites.
And in the end, this might be actually be the worst part. In some not-so-distant future, users may have to choose which Internet experience they want to view. Google and Facebook do not see the web in the same way, which means they present different portraits of the Internet as they continue to chase different goals. In the meantime, users have some trying on to do. Turns out, one perspective might not fit all.
Google didn't build its new Plus service simply to have an online hangout like Facebook. Rather, Google's new social-networking endeavor is about trying to gain valuable insights into people's lives and relationships.
The goal is not to win social networking outright, or to kill any competitors, but to disrupt the social networking economy with a big enough, good enough and popular enough service that the walled gardens (Facebook in particular) is forced to open up interoperability enough that their users can communicate with the significant enough number of people in their lives that use a different social network.
Back in the bad old days, customers of one phone network couldn’t call customers of other phone networks, then people couldn’t email out-of-network. Today people can’t be social across networks, but few people mind because everyone they care about is on Facebook. Plus is a big push to change that.
In the long run, Google+ is going to be less of a destination and more like the connective social tissue of the Web. I’m talking about social networking moving beyond a walled garden like Facebook or even a controlled ecosystem like Twitter.
Pieces of Google+ are likely to be decentralized with tentacles extending across the Web, the mobile Web, and various computer, smartphone and tablet platforms. In some ways, Facebook and Twitter have started doing this already. They’ve put share buttons and boxes on external sites. They’ve launched client apps for multiple platforms. Facebook has even allowed sites to use the Facebook platform as their engine for user comments. However, the ultimate goal for Facebook and Twitter is to drive users back to their sites where they can be monetized.
Think of +1 integrated into mobile content apps, Q&A sites, blog comments, product reviews, music services like Pandora, etc. Now, imagine reading a product review and giving it +1 and then instantly seeing what all of the people in your “Tech Pros” circle have posted about that product — all without leaving the site you’re on. That’s where I see Google going with this and that’s where this could permanently change social networking on the Web into a much more integrated experience. And, if Google+ succeeds, it would likely force Facebook and Twitter to move in a similar direction.
Google+ will be a social layer on top the existing Web. At least that’s the vision. This time, Google might just pull it off.