Facebook, Google+, and Centralized Proprietary Monocultures

This week, Google released Google+, which is basically a social network that's a lot like Facebook, but run by Google instead of Facebook. The big deal here is that it's a lot easier to modify privacy settings and configure what information to post to which group(s) ("Circle(s)" in Google+-speak) of contacts. This shows that Google, at least on the surface, takes privacy a lot more seriously than Facebook. I say this because whenever a controversial privacy settings change occurs on Facebook, it's usually in the direction of less privacy, and only when the users get outraged does Facebook do anything at all (and it's usually insignificant), because the truth is that Facebook's business is built upon selling users' data to companies for marketing, advertising, etc. I've also gotten annoyed with Facebook's chat and constant UI changes that occur for no good reason, so I'm a little more drawn in that sense to Google+ because it integrates Google Chat (which I know works), and all of Google's applications have kept pretty much constant, simple UIs over the years. Please note that I haven't actually used Google+, though I have an invitation (it seems like Google can't process that invitation right now); any statements that make it seem like I've used it are actually just my hopes and expectations.

But at the same time, I'm a bit wary of joining yet another centralized, proprietary social network. Why? Because they could screw me over at any time, and that's pretty much what happened to many Facebook users on Linux. You see, this week, Facebook not only blocked KDE applications from uploading pictures to the site (which was among the selling points for KDE 4.6), but it also deleted all pictures that had previously been uploaded that way. That's outrageous! And worse yet, when prominent free software reporters and proponents complained to Facebook, they got a rather cold response, which indicated both that Facebook didn't really care about the KDE users and more third-party uploaders could be blocked soon. Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case, as about a day later, all the KDE applications were allowed to upload to Facebook again, and all the deleted photos were reinstated. It all turned out to be a big mistake/misunderstanding. Whatever.

So the issue is that whether I join Google+ or just stick with Facebook, in either case I'm at the mercy of the company managing that service. No matter who you are, if you plan on uploading pictures to these "cloud" sites, don't delete them from physical storage at home. Always keep backups on hard drives, etc. Because if you put all your eggs in one basket and that basket falls into a black hole, you're sunk. And until Diaspora actually gets going and starts draining users from Facebook (which unfortunately doesn't look likely at all, considering that I haven't heard anything new about the project for a year or so), although I will certainly use Google+ with an open mind, I will continue to remain wary and vigilant.