So I got an invite a couple days ago to Google Plus, and generally, I’m pretty happy with it. I’m not leaving twitter any time soon, because I like it as an aggregator and a public discussion forum.
But I have been contemplating leaving Facebook for it. I was never really a big fan of Facebook in the first place. When it was really taking off, I would read about it– being a grad student in Boston, interested in technology and culture, I was really curious. But I couldn’t access it. The Winklevossian commitment to exclusivity that was baked into it from the start saw the school where I was doing my MA as not worthy of inclusion. I think UMass Boston students had Facebook opened up to their .edu addresses a couple weeks before it just opened to everyone and their grandma. I ended up only getting a Facebook account once I started TAing while working on my PhD coursework, as a way to try to put the names of some 150 students with faces. So while I’m a pretty frequent user of Facebook, I’ve never felt much fondness for it. I’d be glad to go.
So– you there, over at Google! You want me to switch over to Google+, and drop my Facebook account all together? I’m ripe for it, and I’m not asking much in return.
All I want is this: we need to start a real discussion about what DATA EXPORTABILITY looks like for social networks.
I know Google has a great record in terms of data exportability and open standards compared to any other tech company its size. And I know that, from the get-go, Google+ has come with a way to export your data in a fairly granular way, and that’s a good start. I want more, though. I want a discussion.
You see, Facebook has a way to export your data, too— go to Settings, and scroll down to Export Data. And at least Google gives us a human-readable, stable URL for this process.
And I believe Eric Schmidt when he says that he thinks there’s room for multiple Social Networking platforms, and that Google’s trying to play nicely with Facebook and Twitter. I believe that because Google’s model has long been to improve the overall internet experience, to keep people online more, so they keep coming back to Google and its ads, as opposed to Facebook’s walled-garden approach.
But again, all of this is not quite enough. We’re at a major turn, here. Integrating social will be a huge boon to Google in terms of personalized search and finding ways to leverage the social graph. And I’ll get on board right now. But in return I want a discussion to happen, here.
What do I want this discussion to look like? It’s pretty simple. I want Google to invite outsiders to the table to have an honest discussion about what users might be able to expect in return for granting Google access to their social graph. Our social data is going to help drive search– social is going to influence how much of that fabled “Google Juice” a site or a post might have. When will that weighting data fall under the company’s commitment to data exportability?
And when will that commitment lead to them using Google+ as a platform to help create open data standards for social? Because exportability without standards is of very limited utility. Once I can export my data and migrate it to another platform– maybe even one that could still interact with Google+– that’s when we’ve really got data exportability that means something.
Google has a good record with standards, and I think that this would undergird Schmidt’s point. I think it would be in their interest, as traditionally defined– keeping people on the net by making the internet better– and it could potentially force Facebook to rethink its closed approach or risk irrelevence.
So yeah, Google– let’s get this conversation started. I’m ready to switch.