As you may have heard, Google recently announced the discontinuation of their unsuccessful social network called Google+. Everyone knows about it because creating an account is a requirement to use Google’s other services such as YouTube or Gmail, but as it turns out, forcing people to use a service isn’t nearly as effective than giving them a good reason to. After a privacy breech affecting up to half a million of users and several years of little activity, the company decided that the network had to go, and have set an end date of August 2019.
Although the platform didn’t get much activity, there did exist a small, vibrant network of people who used Google+, and now that the site is going offline, they are in search of a new way to connect. So, two tech-savvy friends decided to create an alternative, which they believe could be the answer to Google+’s many problems, including censorship, data privacy, and spam.
“We are a strong community. We are worth saving,” says Di Cleverly, the co-founder of Google+ alternative Pluspora, a Diaspora-based web server for what she calls “Google+ refugees.”
The network runs through a software known as Diaspora, which allows anyone to create their own “pod,” essentially a server for user data, and connect with all other pods in the Diaspora network, creating a truly decentralized structure that makes censorship and privacy-invading data collection, two of the biggest problems with the current largest social media networks, virtually impossible.
“David Thiery and I decided to do something about it. We set up a private Linux virtual cloud server and are running a diaspora pod there…This is our “Noah’s Ark”, our treehouse, our meeting place where we can find each other even if we get scattered to the other social networks.”
The server started as a way for Di and her friends to connect, but after the news broke that Google+ was going to be shut down, they decided to open it up to everyone, giving them some unexpected results.
“About 150 of my close long-time friends joined me after that. We had an actual little “party” on the pod when we hit 100 people. Corny, I know, but that was our actual goal for membership. Then the news came they were shutting down GPlus. Everyone was really freaking out. I mean really freaking out. So, we decided to just invite everyone over…And everyone came. We went from 150 people to over 6,000 people in one week!”
The benefits of using this decentralized model of social networking are immense. Not only do can you choose how your own server is run in terms of data privacy and spam but hosts have to compete with each other to provide the best experience, meaning that if you as a user don’t like the way your pod operates, you can simply move to another one that upholds the principles you want in a pod.
“The advantages were that we controlled the data and privacy, we got to keep spammers and trolls out, and we got to decide the rules.” – Di Cleverly
For those who are concerned about the recent purge of alternative media outlets from Facebook, this new technology could be a game changer, allowing virtually anyone to operate on the network if they do so within the law, the only centralized power being the first amendment to the constitution.
“Social media as a hobby? Are we all Zuckerberg now? Technology changes. We have the technology to set up and run our own social media sites. We no longer have to be sheep, pawns, used and stripped of our data, force fed ads for gray-hair dye we don’t need just because we are certain age group.”
I asked Di about what type of equipment or expertise it takes to set up a pod, and from what I’ve gathered, it’s relatively simple. All you need is a decent amount of computer storage, some free time, and a bit of coding knowledge.
“Smaller pods of about 1,000 members can be maintained with minimal administrative duties and a budget of roughly $25/month…The big sites won’t ever go away, but I’m ready for social 2.0 and this might just be the direction it takes!”
If you’re interested in joining as either a user or a host (known as “podmins,”) a full list of servers is available here.
This article (Google+ User Creates Freedom-Based Alternative as Google Announces End of G+ Network) was originally published by Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement. Follow me on Diaspora for more news and updates.