Why Google+ (and every other centralized social network) Will Fail

Not that everyone hasn’t already predicted the demise of Google+, but I still feel the need to express why I think G+ was the wrong move. Note that I’m not predicting that “Facebook will win!” (Win what, exactly?)

Where Google went completely myopic was ripping out the share function of Reader. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: ZOMG, someone is still complaining about Reader! ¬†Yes, I am. But even though I felt personally deprived of the ability to share all the share-worthy stuff to which I was subscribed, I understood at the time it was because Google wanted that sharing to take place on their portal instead, and what better way to draw in the masses than to get the geeks who like Reader to start using it first!

Wrong. Notice how I called G+ a portal above? That’s what it is. Google could have learned from Yahoo!, or all the bubbles that burst prior to Yahoo! that portal sites are inherently limiting in what they’ll allow you to do, and once the viewership realizes that a portal is exactly what they’re looking at, they will instantly recognize that it isn’t the promised end-all, be-all of social networking. That’s not to say they will stop using it immediately, just that they have already decided that they will move on to something better when it becomes available.

Unfortunately for Google, the geeks were already in love with how Reader implemented the publish / subscribe (PubSub) model before it was torn down. I would be very interested to know how many smart folks at Google knew it was a mistake before it happened and yet were powerless to stop the forward march of the behemoth Facebook-killer.

Sometime I might want to post something for my own reference, or something off-color that runs afoul of the AUP on the social network that I wanted to post to. This I think is one of the motivations for folks to move towards self-hosting. Theoretically, unless what you’re pushing is demonstrably illegal, you should have a safe haven for hosting your own ideas or statements.

But then how to make PubSub work? RSS / Atom got us part of the way there, but we still need a set of tools to do more, to be able to connect, in real time (chat/videoconf) or “me time” (email), and exchange arbitrary data. We need a directory so we can find each others’ hubs, and then a standard way to publish our personal data APIs so others can use them.

I’ve read a few articles recently which I believe feature new initiatives to get where we’re trying to go. More on those later.