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Dear Googles: Stop asking (plus.google.com)
751 points by davidgerard on Nov 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 253 comments

I was all enthusiastic about G+ for about 5 minutes - until they wouldn't allow my wife to sign up without giving them her phone number, and proving that it was hers by accepting a call from them. Just who the fuck do they think they are??

There is no way I could suggest my friends and family sign up to such an intrusive service, so I quickly deleted my own account.

It's an absolutely stunning achievement to create a web-site that's even more offensively intrusive than Facebook. I hope Google are proud.

Amen, google has turned into a genuine identity thieve. a few months ago, i think it was primarily driven by the whole prism thing, i decided to create a bogus google account, using a disposable phone number. Now I have a three google accounts: personal (for email), work (email, google apps, drive, adwords, etc), and my bogus account (a 70+ year old lady using google search, youtube and the rest of the google crapware like google+). this type of business, unilateral decisions are what made microsoft a "hated" company back in the late 90s, early 2000s. google isn't what it used to be, now it's a company packed with great engineers with managers making poor decisions.

Let me see if I understand you: The revelation of the NSA's activities made you fearful and so you decided to make fake Google accounts with fake phone numbers to alleviate those fears. All from the same IP address?

How exactly does this help keep your identity safe? Because they don't have your phone number tied to your account? How many times have you put your phone number in your emails to people? I looked, and over the last year I've sent my number to people over 150 times. I used to have it in my sig. How many people do that?

It seems like you and others are fearful of Google's actions because you are fearful of the government's actions. Remember, Google freaked out about PRISM, and the result was them encrypting traffic between their data centers to PREVENT the government from spying on your data: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/11/google...

this action doesn't keep me safe, IPs are the same, behaviour is the same, search terms don't change, etc. All i'm saying is that the entire prism story, corporations not making an effort to keep users data safe, constant ad spam because i'm in the "ideal consumer" age range and location, etc, made me rethink how i present myself to google (and other services such as FB). i can only encourage you to simply change you age and relationship status to widowed and you'll see the change.

If I'm going to get spam, I'd rather get spam targeted towards me vs. a 70 yr old woman

>targeted towards me

i'll consider doing that whenever facebook stops showing me sex related ads (condoms, pseudo-dating sites, etc.), bidding/daily discount sites, etc. and no, these ain't retargeting ads. the only decent ads i see are the retargeting ones.

it doesn't matter how many times i "hide this ad > Why did you hide it? > reason x" that it will continue to show me related ads that i have no interest in. "targeted" is one of those over-used buzzwords that i'm still waiting to do what it is supposed to do - i won't hold my breath.

this type of business, unilateral decisions are what made microsoft a "hated" company back in the late 90s, early 2000s.

It was a lot more than that.

Maybe, but once trust starts to erode, the effects of it may not be seen for a few years. And once lost it's extremely difficult to get back.

I certainly get the feeling that Google's halo is slipping.

During the nymwars, I saw techies moving to Bing for search. Bing for search! That's when you know your brand is going toxic.

I'm considering Hotmail over Gmail.

I you how much the thought pains me.

Though I'll likely end up with a smaller provider somewhere. Gandi.net or Sonic.net both have very strong pro-privacy and freedom reputations.

The problem is they effectively know all your accounts are the same. Your IP addresses/ browser / os / screen res etc are pretty much a fingerprint. Let alone any other ml techniques they can apply.

> Just who the fuck do they think they are??

They think they are Google - you know, the guys that made the Internet searchable. I'm pretty sure they know what they are doing.

Call verification is used by many services to establish ownership of an account, and to provide a fallback mechanism that automates the recovery of an account. Google likes to automate the shit out of things. This is no different.

I hear that you are angry about their policies, but I really don't hear why you are angry other than it's 'intrusive'. Are you afraid they are going to do something horrible with your phone number but not your searches? Do you have similar concern and passion for what the NSA has done? Are they related to each other?

> Call verification is used by many services to establish ownership of an account, and to provide a fallback mechanism that automates the recovery of an account. Google likes to automate the shit out of things. This is no different.

I've been using the internet for well over a decade now. The number of services I've signed up for must be in the hundreds.

I've never had to verify my identity unless a monetary transaction has been carried out, and then it's to my bank rather than the merchant.

Nothing I get from Google+ needs any confirmation of my real identity.

> Nothing I get from Google+ needs any confirmation of my real identity.

Now we're getting to the nut of the real argument.

I think the problem comes from the fact of treating Google+ like any other social network like Facebook. Google+ is supposed to be an identity layer for all of Google. The fact that they have status update posting, etc is secondary.

Google would like to assign a face, name and phone number to every Google account. And why is that? For various reasons. A face and a name is very valuable for targeted ads. And a phone number associated with every Google account will help Hangouts. Maybe it will enable sending SMS from the web to any phone and also Voice users can cal from the web from their Google account. Thus, Google achieves their aim of disrupting the carriers and making the phone number irrelevant.

That's just the way I see it anyway.

If that's the case, why not be up front about it?

Because saying you're the next OpenID won't allow you to be the next social network sensation à la Facebook.

Except that OpenID is a distributed protocol, which the Internet should so obviously use for authentication, not FB/G+.

Has Google ever gotten marketing right?

Seriously. About all they do is branding.

Google does not get the credit for making the Internet searchable; there were some pretty decent search engines, like AltaVista, before Google came along. Google made an incremental improvement in search algorithms and figured out how to make search very profitable.

I think you're wrong there. I remember using the web back then. Search sucked before Google. Altavista was a bit better than what came before it, but Google really was the first search engine that was any bloody good at all. The PageRank algorithm basically cracked the search problem.

Making money actually came years later. Google used the method of "get a zillion users and we'll figure out money later."

>Google really was the first search engine that was any bloody good at all.

This is not even vaguely true. Google's algorithm was a bit better, their page was cleaner, and they weren't trying to push you into other services or wall you into any weirdness.

If google had pulled the shit they pull now back then, I never would have switched to it. I switched to google because they convinced me that their simple, honest strategy was based on some sort of a company value rather than just a strategy of leaving profit on the table until they could drive all competition out of business and ask for your firstborn. Corporate values? That's what I get for believing in science fiction.

The algorithm was better, but it wasn't revolutionary. The main point was it specifically ignored the page titles and meta tags that got all the keyword stuffing at the time.

The biggest advantage Google had was their listings were all search results, whereas most competitors had paid listings included in the results, but at the top of course.

It was revolutionary better. Non-techie friends were saying to me out of the blue "have you tried Google?"

But that was, you know, over 15 years ago.

If I remember correctly, AltaVista had a pretty sophisticated advanced search mode where you could string together search terms with Boolean operators (and/or/not). And I'm sure that AltaVista had some kind of metric of "site quality" before PageRank came along. For example, you could judge how "important" a site is by how often people click on a search result to go there, or how big they are (number of URLs from that site in your search index). You can also rank the relevance of a search result by how closely the search terms match the text on the site.

Also, as the web and search evolved, people who ran web sites figured out what they'd need to do to get found more easily by search engines. It's possible that the rise of SEO was more responsible for a better search experience than improved site ranking algorithms.

I was also using AltaVista back in early 2000. Their advanced search method you mention is the perfect example of complicated UI that fails to function properly, putting the blame on the user. I switched to Google after being frustrated that I wasn't finding something while at an Internet Cafe, I then saw Google's logo on somebody else's screen and gave it a try. Google was better by an order of magnitude. Your reasoning about SEO is bulshit.

... and now we have completely useless and inaccurate results from google just about every time you search.

There isn't an hour that goes by that I don't search for a few keywords ... like ... freebsd openvpn push ... and guess what ? Results 1 and 3 for that query do not contain the word push.

Every day I am running into this and every day I miss altavista.


Is there a way to switch this on permanently?

I vaguely recall something like a Boolean search functionality on AV, yeah. I think HotBot had one too, though they were using some other sucky algorithmic innovation that didn't actually crack the search problem.

I don't think SEO really started happening until Google outlined the basic idea of PageRank - until there was something to plausibly target. At which point 1999-2000 were the years of hideous link farms. I sure remember those.

No, it was happening way before Google, every page's meta tags would have "anna kournikova nekkid", even if you were selling lawnmowers.

I was an avid user of AltaVista back in the day but what killed it, and why I jumped on Google as soon as it was available was back then, it was simply less polluted.

I don't think PageRank made any difference at all. Its the other thing you mentioned - the zillions of users.

A huge data set mapping the search terms -> clicks is what made all the difference IMO.

Setting aside your hysterical NSA invocation. Once I give Google my phone number, it is yet another (and wholly unnecessary) place where I have to keep my phone number updated.

Moreover, in the event that it changes, I have a Google verification problem.

So the fact that I don't trust Google not to leak it somehow is by the by, although that is why I also disabled their "web history" tracking service. No, what really annoys me is that they, and every other service that overcollects, are creating future data management debt for me to deal with. Like I don't have enough already.

I just give them my Google Voice number. Then I don't have an "additional number to track."

Not that phone numbers need to change any more anyway. With universal portability, unless you move outside of the country, you can keep your phone # with you.

Sometimes you want to change your phone number.

Call verification alone is pretty vulnerable. For a social network login, it might be OK. For access to all your information (which is what Google is heading towards, and is already for some people) it's not great. If someone steals your phone number, it's game over. (AFAIK if you verify via phone you can bypass 2FA, right?)

> Just who the fuck do they think they are??

One of the leading services targeted by account generation farms to launch spam.

Go on, tell me how you send spam e-mail through Google+.

1. Post in public groups 2. Comment on popular posts. 3. Comment on popular pages and accounts. 4. Spam hashtags Enough?

Sure, Gmail was the target. Google's approach to verification was formed before G+ existed, though it's been tweaked since.

They're unlikely to reinvent account verification from scratch for each of their products though.

Without a phone number, how are they going to know where you are at all times? Without knowing where you are at all times, how will they give the NSA what they want more than anything?

I know you are probably joking, but the phone number would enable Google to link your Google Plus account to your Android phone (assuming you haven't already logged into Google Plus on your Android device to use the Play Store).

They don't need a number for that. You already read gmail and watch youtube on your phone..

To be fair, Yahoo does the same thing now adays.

And facebook also will opportunistically ask for phone verification when its scrubbing system thinks you might be creating a 'fake' account.

Sure FB want to know your telephone number, but they don't prevent you from using their service if you can't/won't give it to them.

I don't use any Yahoo device anymore (not because spy, I ended up with Yahoo much before) but what are Yahoo doing with user's data?

No idea, but Yahoo has tried about 3 times to create a social network but it always dies in its infancy.

Likely they'll try again for #4.

> even more offensively intrusive than Facebook

Not sure if that statement is specifically related to your wife having to "provide a phone number", but... Facebook does the same thing.

No, they don't. FB want to know what your number is, but they don't prevent you from using their service if you can't/won't give it to them.

I tried to create an account the other day and they explicitly required a mobile phone number they could send an SMS too.

I suspect that different people see different behavior.

Wait wait wait, so your issue was that she'd have to accept a call? As in, have to talk to someone? As in, perform one of the most basic human interactions that is part of what makes us human? And that offends your senses to the point that you consider it intrusive? How antisocial are you? Who do you think YOU are that you can't have a simple chat with another human being. Are you the king of England? Le Roi? Is Google the proverbial peasant under your patronage and must request an audience with you after many prose describing your illustrious magnanimity ordained by God? Get over yourself.

I don't give my phone number to anybody who doesn't need it. Lots of places ask/demand it, but it's always actually optional. There's no law that says you have to have a phone, after all.

So, there's no way I'm going to give up my phone number in exchange for a log-in on a free web-site.

If I knew your phone number, then I already gave it to Google and linked it to your real name, email, employer and other contact info - just so that my contact books sync between my devices, and your picture shows up next to your name on my phone. Ah, if you hadn't put up your picture, my phone uploaded the picture I had, and linked to your name.

Just so that you know. No need to worry about giving up what's already given up.

That's an interesting point. It's illegal for Google to store my personal data without my consent (I am a EU citizen).

I suppose they can store other people's address books because it's the "legitimate interest of a third party". I'm pretty sure they can't then use that data (my phone number) for any purposes beyond the third party interest - which means they can't use it for advertising, or to link to any user profiles they may have on me. Basically, they can store address book data, but they can't look at it for their own purposes.

That obviously doesn't apply to US persons, who have no data protection right - hence the horror stories of "friend suggestions" that have obviously come through service providers peeking at address books. I wonder how they can practically filter out EU citizens from that - I suppose it's easy to spot an EU phone number.

(Just to head off the inevitable "Google doesn't care about EU law" scoffing... I think you'll find they do. They only get to export Europeans' personal data to the US because they've agreed to uphold the Safe Harbour principles. If they abuse that privilege, they'll have to do a lot of expensive re-engineering.)

Finally a reasonable response.

It's not about chatting. At most a computer will call you up and you type some numbers into it, then it hangs up on you.

So... what's your phone #?

three two three 90 five four two 59

(323) 905 - 4259 ?

Or do you believe when you give your phone number to Google, it's obfuscated, not indexed or searchable, and not permanently associated with you for their current or future use?

Next step - has anyone confirmed your identity yet?

I was unpleasantly surprised to see your post deliberately undoing the GP's attempt to obfuscate his number. Is your goal to bully GP into supporting privacy?

It doesn't matter the technical details of whether the number is easier to search, it's the intent I find disturbing about this.

>> Is your goal to bully GP into supporting privacy?


No, it's to point out that once your privacy has been compromised, you might not be able to undo the damage.

What supposed intent do you find disturbing? Google wants to associate a credit card number with your login, and getting your phone number is a good way to do it. Someone created a throwaway account on a website, and wrote a post asking for phone numbers. Someone made the mistake of giving hers.

Yes, google is one guy who is really lonely and just wants to talk. He calls you up to chat if you sign up for google+.

Does Google believe that if they just push a little harder and finish the job, that somehow the people so alienated will be won over?

Or is the pursuit of profit far more important than the perception of the brand overall?

Right now, and for the last year, the brand is being severely tarnished in all of the networks I have, tech and real-life. I don't see them winning on any front. A Pyrrhic victory.

I have no idea why people talk about huge corporations like they have hive mind and are in total unity?

Google is now a mega-corp, comprised of thousands competing for finite success outcomes (raises & promos). It is also data driven hence they look at metrics that are considered success like registers over abandonments. Brand tarnish is a long term outcome, therefore it can not be seen in typical a/b testing cycles. Hence it is ignored, or even gamed upon for short term metric gain. This is true for all corps that equate success with short cycle data driven metrics.

> I have no idea why people talk about huge corporations like they have hive mind and are in total unity ?

Because despite being a mega-corp, comprised of thousands [...], it's still called and named `Google`, singular. They naturally map it to one entity ; not because they are stupid but because the entity is interacting with them solely through that one identity and they don't have incentives to care for the inner workings of that entity.

> It is also data driven hence they look at metrics that are considered success like registers over abandonments. Brand tarnish is a long term outcome, therefore it can not be seen in typical a/b testing cycles. Hence it is ignored, or even gamed upon for short term metric gain. This is true for all corps that equate success with short cycle data driven metrics.

Like: "we don't care about those abandonments because we got these phone numbers which are more valuable and show we are a trusty brand" ? Makes sens (no sarcasm).

They don't care about abandonment because anyone can game A/B testing.

Users are easily persuaded. A majority of users will give in just so the damn thing shuts up. They probably use the metrics to hand out bonuses or engage in pointless contests leading to gamification.

It doesn't take a village to make a Picasso, and any attempts to try are going to result in failure. Google needs leadership.

Either your description of a purely data driven corporation is true, in which case I would say Google operates exactly like a hive mind, or something else is controlling these actions. Actions which across all Google properties are identical in nature, and maybe more significantly, tone of voice.

That, or all of this is just a huge coincidence. I find that to be the least plausible explanation.

Clearly this is a unified strategic approach. It's one Google doing this, not dozens of units that happen to accidentally all try to do the same things the same way at the same time. It's the total unity part that actually makes it more creepy.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

By all accounts the consolidation and Plusification of Google's services is being driven from the top, by Larry Page specifically.

That a bad plan comes from a famous person doesn't make it any less of a bad plan.

In the spirit of Google: +1 for people and +2 for companies now actively moving away from almost all Google properties because they're becoming so unpleasant and/or unproductive to use. I know they're all about being data driven and running empirical tests: that's why the {expletive deleted} page moves around every time I come back and visit something, which is probably the single most annoying thing they've been lately. The very fact that they're running so many tests is materially reducing the value of their services to us.

Ironically, our exodus started with abandoning our business G+ pages, because they have generated so little interest that they aren't even worth a few minutes now and then to update them any more. It appears that literally no-one we care about is actually using Google+.

> That a bad plan comes from a famous person doesn't make it any less of a bad plan.

But I didn't say that the plan was a good one (or a bad one), just that this action and similar ones do seem to be in accord with that top-down plan rather than the result of independent action by lower-level people.

Do you have any proof that significant number of people are moving away from almost all Google properties? This sounds very anecdotal.

I'm merely offering an anecdotal view and make no claim otherwise, though FWIW it's a pattern I've now seen with multiple clients who previously had varying levels of Google dependence as well as my own companies and myself personally.

The thing that made me mention it was that so many of the reasons given by so many of the people involved are fundamentally the same. If what I've seen is at all representative, Google are increasingly perceived to be a security/privacy risk (though this is hardly unique among cloud services) and perhaps worse for them, they're not perceived to be a stable long-term bet (too many dropped products, too many unwanted changes happening too fast, nothing special in terms of quality or features, and little support for users).

Some of these factors presumably won't be as damaging to Google in the consumer market, or at least not as quickly, so I don't see their main advertising business dying any time soon. However, to businesses with real money on the line and organisation-wide IT strategies to plan, Google's overall offering looks increasingly unattractive. For example, Google Docs/Drive/Apps have been tried by various groups I know. None is still happy with them, and several have been forced to move at least some of their activities to alternative systems because the Google ones just weren't capable of getting those jobs done. Chrome is another example I've more often heard mentioned between curse words than flattering ones recently. And I already mentioned in another post the horrible experience we had trying to organise some Google Ads.

Google's resilience appears to stem in part from traditional alternatives shooting themselves in the foot by also pushing to cloud-based offerings and therefore immediately running into similar concerns. Even so, Google seem to be getting worse faster than everyone else.

Another anecdote here, but I jumped the GOOG ship long ago and apart from a very minor bump (adjusting to DDG) it was painless too. Sure, for a couple of days when I was unhappy with results I went back to Google, but they were no better. And sure, some Gmail features are great. But on the whole, they're not irreplaceable, and I reckon they need to take better care of their customers than they currently are.

I've got little more than anecdata to contribute as well.

Personally, I make use of some Google products but have been very consciously trying to shift away from them. Too much data, too long a retention period, and too obvious a target for snoops (ours, theirs, black hats). I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect.

A few years ago, now, I was at a conference largely serving NGOs and the question of cloud computing came up. The idea was fairly novel then, and I expected the discussion to focus on technical aspects -- "how do we move our services to the cloud" type questions. Nuh uh.

It was virtually all about privacy, data control, jurisdictional control, and other legal issues, as well as some discussion of lock-in and similar issues. Now, I think of these things, and they come up on a corporate context, but for these people, many of whom deal with refugees, undocumented aliens, whistleblowers, and others basically in fear for their livelihoods if not their lives, these were all very, very real issues. And this was years before Snowden's disclosures.

Mind, I've followed online privacy issues for a few decades (and butt heads regularly with Lauren Weinstein on G+ over how significant Snowden's leaks were -- I say they're tremendous, he generally claims otherwise), but this level of direct awareness and concern in a largely non-technical audience was eye-opening.

For myself:

I decided to check out G+ and have stayed with it (though I quickly deleted my Real Name account). It has mostly not been particularly useful ... until early in 2013 where I found that rather than commenting about G+, I was actually using it to engage on other topics. I still see it as flawed (and quite possibly fatally so) in conception, but the technical underpinnings are very solid: the back-ends are fast, stable, and highly reliable, and even with rapid and continuous development the site rarely if ever breaks.

Utility-wise it's been another story. The DOM is so bloated I can rarely keep more than a tab or three open (and constantly have to re-kill those to reclaim RAM), the interface is atrocious, the underlying data and interactions models are utterly broken, and more (I've posted long rants many times, they're on my G+ profile, and I'm really beyond caring now). I went to the extent of very extensively modifying the UI through a monster (nearly 2000 lines) CSS stylesheet fixing endless annoyances (to be fair, I do this to many sites, HN included, but none is as extensive as G+). Adding joy to this is Google's obfuscated CSS (it's run through some sort of minimizer) which does wholesale class renaming periodically.

But other than G+ I've been trying to cut Google out. I set DDG as my search engine, returning to Google for a while before committing again this past June. The results are actually quite good, and though I return to Google occasionally, the bulk of my search is DDG.

I've got an Android device tied to Google as well, which I'd very much like to replace with something independent of it.

I make use of a few other services, though mostly not logged in.

And it's not that Google doesn't provide utility. I just have very serious problems with it (or anyone else) watching every breath I take.

It is unfortunate that this did not get the attention it deserves: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6420546

Original link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2013/09/20/sex_a...

Do you have any specific references to those accounts?

The consistency and duration of the push certainly makes it appear to me to be a top management directive. Which is among the reasons my faith and trust in the company has fallen so drastically as I've watched its G+ offerings evolve.

Sure its a mega-corp but some person or persons are in charge. And this individuals either agree with this path or are getting ready to fire some folks.

> I have no idea why people talk about huge corporations like they have hive mind and are in total unity?

Am I the only one to find this statement ironic?

One of the biggest arguments against Google+ and its drive to one account/real names is that individual people don't have unitary identities, let alone companies.

Maybe as a general assessment, but I think the google+/youtube merger specifically is being driven by ideology, not metrics. Remember that memo Steve Yegge wrote a few years ago? I think the company took that message very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously...

I don't see the connection though. Yegge was lamenting Google's unwillingness to be serious about being a platform company for third-party app developers (, developers, developers, developers ...) The latest changes don't seem to have much to do with progress on that front.

I didn't say they understood it correctly. The way I see it is that they read it and decided to act on it by making Google+ their core platform and giving it the killer app that it had been lacking - youtube. Opening up their platform for others might come later. Or maybe they forgot about it. Who knows?

This is true of all partner+ or close to partner level management due to that they are there for the long haul. They do not have metrics only ideology. In the long haul, brand collapse will be seen; see MS where it has trickled from the bottom to the top, hence the exiting CEO and exec shedding.

But who is implementing and setting all the short term 'features', lower mgmt and ICs. The issue is that ideology is not enough for measuring success in mega corps, data has to used. The translation form ideology to metrics is where they fail.

What memo? Do you have a link?

Searching "yegge memo" on google gives a plethora of relevant results.

A copy of the full text can be found here: https://plus.google.com/+RipRowan/posts/eVeouesvaVX

Now that I'm re-reading this, it seems to me that Google is doing exactly the opposite. It's even more product focused, and is now moving towards making everything one big product called Google+.

There's no platform here at all. Not externally (who develops for or on Google as a platform?), but apparently not internally either.

Because the haphazard way in which different properties interact, the way functionality and data bleeds through, and all the damn bugs because of it are all signs of products and data being hooked up to each other with duct-tape.

I'm not asking for myself as much as the community. Linking to things you reference to helps multiple people & makes the thread, site and your comments all that more valuable.

And not linking certain things helps people more by helping distinguish between which references are particular enough to merit linking when mentioned and which can be assumed as common knowledge.

I've been loyal to Google's products, across the board, for over a decade.

They push another inch forward in terms of trying to force me to cross-link products or use something I don't want to, and I'm going to abandon their entire product suite, permanently.

I'm just one consumer, but that's how I'm going to vote, with my feet heading out the door. I don't like being abused in exchange for my decade of loyalty. Fortunately it's really trivial to switch off of Google for about 95% of what I use them for.

Completely agree. Google needs to pay attention, it isn't just some haters complaining about the top dog anymore. The backlash is coming from even long time fanboys.

Never forget that you are not the customer, you are the product.

There is nothing magical about being the customer. Paying money doesn't stop anyone from creating a multi sided market that makes you the product. As anyone who subscribed to a magazine, purchased season tickets to a cultural organization, or seen an ad on an Xbox can attest.

Also, you created an account an hour after this article was posted just to type a banal cliche that we've all had to endure endlessly?

Also : I'm a customer of my isp. Not too happy about them at all. In fact, I'm a lot happier being Google's product (and I would argue that at least in a few instances this is not true).

That's just silly, Google can't afford to alienate its users, whether you consider them customers or products. This phrase is becoming a meme.

Yes, it can. Where exactly are they going to go? Even the really few of us who care about it enough to stop using Google search, turning to duckduckgo, still need to go back to Google every once in a while, when DDG obviously doesn't cut it. The interwebs are filled with Google's advertising products, and the number of Gmail users who evangelically try to beat its interface into behaving well enough to be worth a fuck is almost outrageous.

We are still a good five or six years away from the point where Google would have to worry about alienating the users whose data they sell, and with the decreasing amount of Internet education most users get before starting to surf the web, the distance from that point is increasing. They thrive on the eternal September.

We are still a good five or six years away from the point where Google would have to worry about alienating the users whose data they sell

I imagine MySpace were saying something similar for a couple of years as Facebook started really taking off, and Yahoo probably thought no new search engines were a threat a year or two before Google arrived.

The Internet is a funny place. A lot of Internet users move in herds, which means a disruptive newcomer can grow very fast if the whole viral networking effect kicks in, but usually when that happens one or more established players must fall to create the space.

True. And the people objecting against the whole G+ / YouTube integration are probably the early adopters that could lead the herd.

> I imagine MySpace were saying something similar for a couple of years as Facebook started really taking off, and Yahoo probably thought no new search engines were a threat a year or two before Google arrived.

On the other hand, MySpace was not hooked on so many and so important portions of one's Internet life, nor did they have the advertising upper hand that Google has.

It has been so long; I almost forgot the phrase "Eternal September." Keeping an eye on your internet privacy is a pain in the ass: I use DDG when I can, block most scripts and trackers, and keep an eye on my cookies, but it breaks some websites in non-obvious ways, and I'll have to do something else to deal with browser fingerprinting. As long as most people are easily productized, it just doesn't matter.

My browsing habits are pretty much along the same lines, but I expect it will become much harder to do so in the following years. Between the feature creep and the monetization of idiocy, I expect we will lose even more diversity than we already have; on the software side, privacy-enabling features will just slowly disappear, as a smaller and smaller proportion of people will have the technical prowess to even care about them, let alone use them.

As for the Eternal September... I used to think it had been just a momentary problem that led to the unfortunate demise of USENET. I am starting to wonder if it wasn't, in fact, a first symptom. Programmers from my generation ought to have been so happy to see this happening -- the WWW available to everyone, connecting everyone. If only it weren't for the wrong reasons. The taste of my dream turned out to be a lot more bitter.

In the middle term, it will probably come down to stone tools: blocking via /etc/hosts, filtering headers through proxies, etc. I'll re-learn it.

As for the Eternal September... I used to be able to talk to people on the internet, with threads, groups, and killfiles, using the software of my choice. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

I'm gonna make an Internet of my own. With hookers and blackjack and threaded newsreaders :-).

Don't forget that Internet is the new television. We've built empires of television channels (including all the commercial football clubs) for the only sake of planting advertising inside each other's homes.

With Internet, we've had our innocence time, with few advertising, relatively clever users and smart, responsible usages.

But Internet will become the new plaza for the populace, filled with orange blinking advertisers, awful designs that only lowerclass people can accept (think saving a file in Windows 8 or just... facebook), like supermarkets who swap alleys around just to make you walk in front of new products, like neon lights which look awful as they try to catch your attention. And websites will get bugs as they grow old, because margins will be shallow again. The story of any long cycle in economy - 2012 was the top of the curve.

And Google will fill perfectly in the middle.

Google can definitely afford to alienate the small percentage of its users who actually care about privacy. They alienated me to the point where I no longer use any Google products, and I hear the company is still pretty successful.

This is precisely about alienating them. They know they're alienating people and they've done the numbers and don't give a shit.

People say that, but these are just labels, and ultimately it doesn't make a difference. The thing that matters is who has power in the relationship. Look at heroin; users are customers, but those supplying the product hold the power. Or look at the music industry: musicians are the product, fans are the customers, and neither of them have much power.

We would be the customer, if they hadn't messed up their advertising management systems so much that we've given up trying to make them work. I don't do our on-line marketing, but I think we're up to something like 4x actual spend that they're offering in credit as they beg us to start advertising with them now.

Even Facebook's ad buy system is better than Google's current one, and being worse than Facebook's ad buy system is an achievement that I always assumed would require years of practice and a lot of natural talent.

Precisely. It's as though Google is the new network television. Advertisers pay to be delivered bits of your attention, and the network focuses on trying to keep your attention, and with a little data mining & demographics match you with the "best" advertisements.

That's completely irrelevant. Google need you as a product to sell to their customers.

And there's no indication that they're in danger of not having you, or a large number of close approximations of you.

Social networking is today's TV, that you must participate both as a way to spend your life and to not be alienated from all the other people in your lives that use and talk about social, or TV, or whatever the next thing will be.

The whole phone number thing is an attempt to solve a very hard problem.

Most people have terrrrrrrrrrrible password practices. Absolutely abysmal. And they are keeping extremely sensitive data inside their email as well as using their email address as the key to accessing many other websites and pieces of sensitive data. Think about how screwed you'd be if you lost access to you email address. Now think of how many people DAILY probably loose such access. Phone numbers are an easy, mostly reliable way to identify someone and give them access back to their email address without an investigation and without human intervention.

Plus, let's just get reasonable for one minute here. Google already has your phone number. Ever given it to someone via gmail? Someone else ever given your phone number to one of their friends through gmail? They're just asking for permission to send you a text.

You totally miss the point. Its not about how great two factor authentication is. Its about the fact I don't want to use the two factor authentication, I'd rather loose everything.

I'd rather have my "sensitive" data compromised than have some multinational advertising company that has been compromised by every major government on the planet have access to me at any given time.

And its as annoying as having someone stand in your kitchen every morning and say "A bowl of bran Sir, its good for you, best thing to eat Sir, other options are inferior". I hate Bran, I'd rather eat toast, I'd eat fruit, I'd rather wait till lunch time. But that butler person won't go away, he shows up at lunch time, an dinner, and when I just feel like a quick snack down town.

I don't care how much better it is for me, I already know, I just don't want it.

And lastly, if someone steals your phone, with your a mail client on it, it is way easier for identity theft to occur, not harder.

>I'd rather have my "sensitive" data compromised than have some multinational marketing company that has been compromised by every major government on the planet have access to me at any given time.

They are far from the same thing, and why do you think it is worse?

Because whats on my Google is mildly embarrassing, where as I grew up group of kids from Yugoslavia, where the government forces used information like this to butcher people in the streets, in there homes. I turn not he TV and see it happening in Iraq, and Syria right now.

Its not a future I want this world to have, and we are unfortunately enabling it, as always, with poorly thought through best intentions.

> And lastly, if someone steals your phone, with your a mail client on it, it is way easier for identity theft to occur, not harder.

How exactly is this true? I encrypt my phone's hard disk and I encrypt all of my SMS communications (locally) with https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcri...

It's no harder than if someone steals your laptop. The same measures you would use on a laptop (FDE, TLS) are available on phones. The argument can certainly be made that SMS is an insecure form of 2-factor auth, since they can be easily intercepted in transport (though if you use TextSecure someone who steals your phone can't get them!), but that's why we have the google authenticator app.

Because a common tactic kids are using ATM is a simple snatch and grab, right out of peoples hands. Heaps easier than taking a laptop as you might be standing in a crowd, they can approach you with speed, shunt you off balance and are gone.

Phone doesn't lock while they run with it as they are touching the screen, they get away from the user and disable the security features. You are compromised, phone is compromised, thief's win.

Or so the papers say, and several female friends who have had this happen to them at evening events (not identity theft, but the snatch and grab).

I try to minimize how much I hold my phone in my hands in public for this reason sure (It also makes you a more viable target for muggers if you look distracted by your phone). You can also set TextSecure to automatically wipe your passphrase from memory when you're done reading/writing texts. I should probably also be using APG ( https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdfilter=APG&fdid=org... ) to encrypt other stuff for the same reason.

I don't doubt that this is a real threat for sure, but there are measures you can take to prevent it from happening.

If your phone gets stolen, then you block your phone number with the carrier, and the thief can't get your SMS - so 2-factor security still works and protects you.

True, I think most snatch and grabs are sold quick for cash and not identity theft anyway.

But in a worst case scenario how quick could someone determined actually compromise you? minutes? less time than you'd wait on hold during work hours, let alone waiting till the next day?

Cool then continue to click "no". Your personal preferences have nothing to do with google's intention.

If someone steals your phone and it's logged into all your personal accounts and you don't contact your mobile provider to shut the sim-card off then yes you are screwed. Also I would suggest cancelling your credit cards if someone steals your wallet.

Yeah. The problem is that pretty much whatever they do--and certainly whatever they do that is practical at low-cost scale--is subject to criticism. In this case, it's the phone number thing. But try out these other headlines:

How I lost access to my Google account and couldn't get it back

How a hacker compromised my Google account with social engineering


You're right that in general this helps, and most of Google's account security energy is going towards helping average users deal with basic security. Microsoft offers a similar option (you must choose to use a phone, or a secret question, I think).

But interestingly, phone auth changes as your account becomes more valuable. If your Google account unlocks everything you have, then a targeted stealing of your phone number gives the attacker everything.

If the target is leaving the country without roaming for a few days, an attacker might even get the number flipped back before they return. A non-security conscious victim, upon return, might just wonder how they forgot their password, reset it again, and move on. (That's another reason why Google and others remind you when you last changed your account settings.)

No one is saying that it's fool proof or totally secure. It's just an easy, mostly reliable way to automate the process.

If you develop a way to recover people's email accounts that is simple for consumers, requires no human intervention, and is more secure than phone numbers, patent it and make millions. Seriously, this is a hard problem to solve and companies will gladly pay you for a better solution.

That's what I'm saying. It's great for most of their users, but as Google becomes more important, it provides an easy single-point-of-failure you can use to completely take over someone's ID.

Google has become this unwieldily beast that doesn't care how frustrated its users become, because it knows not enough of them will leave to have even the slightest dent in their revenue.

In the case of YouTube, I agree. What good alternatives are out there that have even half the content that YouTube has?

Vimeo is on par or ahead for artsy original content, but pretty much focuses only on that niche, so there aren't many music videos for popular music, tv show / movie clips, or any of the rest of the stuff you find on YouTube.

I would really like to see Vimeo become more popular. Their service is much cleaner and far less annoying. Although the recent discovery of Youtube Feather has me intrigued.

They don't permit all sorts of content that YouTube does, which is what holds Vimeo back from broad acceptance as a YouTube replacement.

...but their higher quality standards are also what has allowed them to carve out a niche which youtube can never replace.

Sure -- it's a double edged sword, but the point is that Vimeo does not represent a potential YouTube replacement.

The video uploader needs work. Even content optimised for the site uploads like a dog.

Vimeo is where YouTube's original content creators are talking about moving (I'm not sure to what degree seriously).

For general video use, nothing beats YouTube.

It's interesting, though. In Hollywood, Vimeo seems to be the default choice for professional work. Up and coming directors have their short films and reels up there. And there are some password-protected videos top pros use for work on very big name films.

It's weird how markets segment like that.

It's because Vimeo decided fairly early on that they weren't going to be YouTube. They remove stuff like gameplay videos, which means no lets plays, but that also means no low quality lets plays.

Thus if you find a link to a video on Vimeo there's a good chance there's some semblance of quality. Especially if it's a gaming video, because they do allow machinimas. They fostered that artsy niche and in the process became something totally different from YouTube.

I'm surprised the uploaded video services haven't fragmented as much as news aggregation.

There are a dozen news + comments that all have a slightly different threshold for what stays on the site, determined by the tastes of the community.

Why haven't more video sites emerged with a similar ethos?

I'm assuming it's because hosting a video site is still a very costly venture and the fact that many content creators started on YouTube. Since the bulk of their views are on YouTube they aren't going to move, especially if their livelihoods are at stake. Also, the difference between YouTube and news sites is that the both the content and the and the aggregation is happening on the same site. That means that they are tied to each other which ties the user there as well.

> Why haven't more video sites emerged with a similar ethos?

Because if they touched commercial music or video at all (even by accident or if it's fair use), they'll be sued into oblivion and/or asked to implement the same level of "content protection" YouTube has today (effectively the same thing because a startup video site wouldn't have the resources for that). Remember, the only reason YouTube exists today in any sort of recognizable form is that they got together with Google's checkbook and Google's lawyers. That gave them the legal ammunition to force some kind of settlement (albeit a deeply flawed and problematic one, between ContentID and non-DMCA takedowns, among other things).

If a YouTube competitor is going to emerge, it's going to come from a big company. That's not impossible, but most (all?) of the likely candidates would bring their own (similar or different) serious flaws to the table. And even then they'd need to develop a "content protection" scheme roughly as good as YouTube's - which would take serious machine learning chops on top of everything else, whittling the list even further.

That was my issue. G+ isn't much of a hassel to me as I avoid it but its practically impossible to stop using youtube. From the another thread here are two semi-solutions for now: http://fixyt.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/feather_beta,

Never really thought about it before but Google definitely has the video market locked. Vimeo, dailymotion, liveleak, et al don't even come close in terms of content.

My main issue is the things damn insistence on flash. I want my MacBook battery to last. My recent solution has been to enable developer mode, change user agent to iPad, and all is well. But why the hell does it just flat out refuse to play when you don't have flash installed - even though it can?

There's youtube-dl which supports a whole slew of video sites and updates really quickly when things break. This lets you download content locally, play it via your choice of player, and avoid a whole mass of embedded-browser-player issues. It's generally my preferred route for playing videos, though I'll generally preview a few minutes (or watch shorter ones entirely) in a browser.

The negative of non-Flash movies (YouTube has some) is that they auto-play. Few things annoy me faster than sound coming from a background tab. I generally close them immediately (I usually queue up stuff to look at).

How old is your Mac? Flash has hardware acceleration since 2010 or so.

And if you do have a Mac built in the last 4 years, you're not missing much by using Flash. Difference in CPU usage is negligible and I haven't used an in-browser HTML5 player that wasn't shitty compared to its Flash implementation.

A few months. I was about to tell you I haven't installed it due to benchmarks that show the great power drain - then I noticed that all coincide with the time period you mention. Its funny, I only have issues with YouTube, nothing else. Guess I can't justify not having it now!

Have you tried this? http://www.youtube.com/html5

You'd have to ask Yahoo to create a competitor for something similar to even be available.

Listen, and understand. That Google Plus is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you complete your profile.

Somehow I feel a bit uncomfortable laughing at this.

If Google ever becomes involved in defense work, with this attitude, we are fucked. Imagine combination of armed drones, Google's self-driving car technology and a vast amount of real time data on everyone everywhere.

Now where did I put that tinfoil hat?

I don't mind the annoyance of Google+ for my personal account. But they really fucked things up when they forced the integration on my Google Apps for Business (terrible name by way -- why not "Google Business Suite"). Now we have clients pissed off because they can't share images in their organization without opening Google+. This HAS to stop.

Google is an advertising company. All they really care about is building profiles on users and using it to sell ads. That's why you have a ton of unwanted integration, Chromebooks that can't create user accounts without Google's permission, and a Chrome web browser that default to sending a ton of info to Google.

I still use Google Search but I got rid of my Google account, got rid of the Chromebook, moved my email to Fastmail, and moved to Firefox for browsing.

The main issue is Google will only drive a small minority of it's customers/'products being sold' away. If you have a problem with Google's current approach, you may want to consider leaving, not to "stick it to the man" but to not have to deal with their services anymore.

I recently deleted everything on my account (G+ & YT included) and it feels great to be free from the constant harassment. I only have Gmail active now. I'm still looking for a new mail provider but once I have one, my relationship with Google is over as far as I'm concerned.

It really depends on how much you need to use Google's services.

I feel somewhat dirty saying this, but I'm a fan of Office 365. Exchange support, fantastic customer service, and I feel like if I'm paying money, I'm actually the customer.

NSA's got all my shit anyway, at this point. If I can find an equivalent product that doesn't have the .gov down their throats, I'll jump ship tomorrow. But for now...

I just got an idea:

The hard part about setting up your own email server is, by far, ensuring deliverability. New/dynamic addresses tend to not be trusted by other mail servers, so that is really the most "dangerous"/time consuming part. So, why not do the following?:

* Set up your home server to accept email. If it goes down for a few hours, hey, pretty much every mail server will retry for a few days, so you're pretty much guaranteed to get all messages. * Set up your home mail server to use something like Mailgun or Mandrill to actually send messages. I'm using Mailgun and they have a fantastic interface, giving me a checklist of things I need to do to be able to send emails with pretty much guaranteed deliverability (DomainKeys, SPF, etc).

This would both allow you to receive mail on any domain you wanted, keep your email safe from the NSA/whoever (you can make your home server TLS-only) and ensure that you can send email from any domain you own with great deliverability. Plus, it's free (unless you hit Mailgun's 10k mails/month limit, which is pretty unlikely).

This could pretty much be a Docker image, so setting it up would just be a "docker run some/image". I have various domains, and right now using Gmail is a pain in the ass because I can't change my primary domain. I have to keep my Google identity tied to my 10-year-old email address even though I never use it any more.

I'd lose spam filtering and search, but eh, there are good spam filters around.

How does this prevent the NSA from reading your email? Your outbound email will be unencrypted in general. If your inbound server only accepts TLS, then you're going to have a hard time receiving email, right? Or do I wildly misunderstand the state of SMTP encryption?

It seems to me that until DNSSEC becomes widespread, there isn't secure way to mandate TLS. (OK you could come up with some hack using HTTPS, like check https://domain.com/smtpsettings for each domain to determine if TLS is required.)

Of course running your own server does prevent wiretaps being implemented by Google, or retroactive access to your mailbox. But it's hardly "keeping your email safe from the NSA".

STLS for opportunistic encryption will increase the likelihood that your outbound mail is in fact encrypted. Still not a guarantee.

A large number of major email providers support STLS, so the uptake is better than you might think. A lot of smaller shops don't. How that affects you will really depend on what your mail use patterns are.

And you can always use PGP/MIME or S/MIME. That's increasingly prevalent in corporate networks, though starting from near nil it's still pretty near nil.

I do this (but will argue doing it under some free limit misses the point: man up and pay for your use...); in my case I'm using either AuthSMTP or CritSend for my personal manually-sent outgoing mail (I don't remember which; I have accounts with both).

Of course you should pay for this, but, at $0.5 for the first thousand emails after 10k, you'd have to try very hard to pay even a buck. I use them for all my products, though, and pay them gladly.

"New/dynamic addresses tend to not be trusted by other mail servers"

Running my own mail server for over a decade, and never had a deliverability problem. Of course, you shouldn't try to send from a dynamic IP, but what is a "new" address?

I mean SMTP servers with no reputation. I've been running my own server for years, but I never looked much into it, I am led to believe that the server must have good reputation to avoid spam lists, is that not so?

An IP gets on spam lists if spam is sent out from that IP, or, sometimes, another "nearby" address. You can't get a good reputation, you're just on one or more spam lists, or you're not. Doesn't matter how long you've been around.

He means email addresses, not IPs I think.

I've never considered that.

That's actually a really good idea, especially as reliability will be higher. My connection rarely drops and I have a static IPv6 too so DNS may be far easier to configure.

Edit: An idea to ease transition would be to setup the vacation responder in gmail to remind your contacts about your new address.

You mean if you're using a Gmail address? If you have your own domain, you can just redirect it.

Would anyone be interested in me doing a writeup of this? It sounds like maybe it should be put out there.

Yeah, your mail would be going to your@name.tld and your old address (assuming it's gmail or something?) would use a vacation responder. I'm against forwarding mail as people will continue using my old address. Put your foot down and tell people to use your new address.

Else you'll never be able to close your google account.

+1 for a write up. Last time I tried making a mail server I got it to send mail but it couldn't receive any.

I'd be very interested. Even without a writeup I think I'll try implementing your strategy, but a little documentation would help a lot.

> Would anyone be interested in me doing a writeup of this?


Great, setting this up will be my next post, then (for reference, my site is (http://www.stavros.io/, subscribe to my mailing list to be notified of new posts: http://eepurl.com/BbHo5).

Coincidentally, I wrote about the first half of this setup yesterday:


I think I might hit 10k emails a month if I subscribe for a few more mailing lists, though I guess I could stand to unsub from a few. Otherwise I think that's a pretty decent solution.

The limit is for outgoing mail so unless your sending 10,000 emails a month to mailing lists, I don't think you'll have a problem.

Ah ok, my bad, I misread that.

"I feel somewhat dirty saying this"

Why? O365 is a solid alternative to GMail. Nothing to be ashamed about.

My anti-Microsoft bias is showing.

I use FastMail. They seem competent. (This is a high compliment.)

The interface is simple and clean, their mobile site is lightweight and they seem committed to continued improvements. I'd highly recommend switching to FastMail.

I just did today. I closed my google account in its entirety. I got my mom a fastmail account too. I'm just not sure she will end up using it. She is 70 and pretty savvy for her age and even she sent me a email from her fastmail account that simply said "fuck google". She has been bitching about the Google+ nagging for a few weeks and seems pretty eager to get off the google teat.

For some people it is harder. I deleted my personal Google accounts a while ago. Our school e-mail is Gmail. When we visit Youtube after logging in for Gmail, you have an account, just not a channel. A little box telling you about the updated comment section keeps popping up. There is not a great danger to what they are currently doing, but it is annoying.

I got sick of being logged in when I was searching or using youtube, so two weeks ago I started running my gmail account in a separate profile in Chromium (using the "app" command line option to hide the URL bar that it uses when you use the "Create Application Shortcuts" menu option, but set to use a new profile directory).

It's slightly annoying and I may migrate off of gmail in the future, but for now it prevents this problem.

Your school or company knowing exactly what you're doing on youtube is more than just annoying. It can be extremely harmful.

It depends on the school or company though of course.

Use incognito mode for YouTube.

You still have to log in to comment on or even "like" a video. It's also harder to find the videos you want without being able to see your subscriptions.

What about mail.com as your new mail service?

It doesn't seem like I can use my own domain. That's actually extremely important as I don't want to end up in the same scenario I'm in (can't just pack up and move). It seems my options are:

* Host myself and deal with possibly losing mail, high spam, rejected mail or downtime.

* Pay for a service to handle this for me (either partially like Mailgun or fully like FastMail).

If I want more uptime, I could lease a VPS. Either way, I have to pay up somewhere (money or loss of data). If I'm paying, I'd rather back a company that cares about privacy, like FastMail.

Wow, two years can have a huge impact: http://i.imgur.com/wbjCmbt.jpg

It blows my mind how badly Google sucks at "social networks."

I gave google my phone number a long time ago when I set up two step authentication. Your account is significantly more secure when you do that. Has never been abused AFAIK.

I think of it as similar to giving identifying information to my credit card company when I'm calling them. (Though citi pissed me off asking me for the full credit card number a few years ago).

I posted that link to G+. One person claimed it must be a disgruntled YouTuber, another seriously claimed b3ta must be Microsoft shills. I despair.

So, you are surprised about a negative reaction on the social network for (former) Google employees?

He didn't say he was surprised. The general lack of basic self-introspection makes me sad, too.

Its really annoying since you know its a script and it can just keep asking you again and again. Sometimes it asks me my cell number while trying to check my email (even on my paid google apps account!)

Facebook has taken an interesting more sneaky turn recently with their messenger app. Since now they can collect phone numbers without explicitly asking for them.

Once it's given to them just once.. Its with them forever.

Yes, it's just a script, but you know that there was a human behind that script. Someone at Google, probably pretty high up, made a decision that they're going to keep pestering you, and making your experience as shitty as possible until you give them what they want.

You may be able to block the script with NoScript.

No means no. They really ought to figure that out by now.

for Google no seems to mean maybe ... but hey their services their effen rules ... as customer we should seek alternati... oh wait, Google killed any viable alternative by giving its services for "free"...

No means not now. If they really didn't want to take no for an answer, they could just merge the accounts without asking the user. Instead, they keep reminding the user with gradually increasing frequency to make sure that the user has all their shit in order before the merge actually happens.

Well that's the whole problem - the youtube name dialog options end with "well, we'll ask you later" while the user wants an option "I said 'never' and I mean it".

That option is there, it's the x button in the top right corner.

1. Google asking me for cellphone number only because I've enabled 2-factor authentication so it does it for every new browser/device.

2. Regarding chats, I think it's in cookies, so when you change browsers - the whole QA thing repeats.

3. Google of course wants to know about you more than your mama and spouse combined, but at least some of that pestering experience is due to the fact that Google is prone to employing lousy programmers as much as any other corp.

4. No one is forced to use Google's free services and be put up with begging for personal information so that implies the freedom to switch to any other provider away from Google.

The decision makers, and most people who work at Google probably don't see this problem. They just hand over the information and move on.

It's like the Delta Airlines management team who had a special bus to the airport and a hole in the fence to go straight to their first class seats in their airplanes, or senior Apple employees who (less so now) appeared to never to actually travel outside California and London.

If you don't see a problem you will never fix it. Google and Facebook folks are content with living inside their bubble, while the rest of us get more and more frustrated and use their products less and less.

Also please stop asking me to share G+ with my contacts everytime I go to G+.

Nothing makes like a website less than annoying screens I have to click through every time I go there.

That personal info must be worth an unholy amount of money for them to blow their once-stellar reputation like this.

I complied with everything they ask and they no longer bug me really. But still Google+ is unusable, it constantly uses 40% of my processor just to have that tab open in Chrome/Linux. Facebook runs lovely in comparison.

The size of the DOM is one of many complaints I've had with the service. It effectively made me choose between one of two browsers, and limits the number of tabs I can open on the site (for resource exhaustion), though opening new tabs to go to the proper context is the only way to accomplish many tasks.

In all, a long litany of frustrations.

Dear Hacker: Stop signing up at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and all the other personal data collection services, if you care about your privacy. I'm living a happy life without such accounts, and so can you.

As it turns out, the only one of those many services I have an account with was Google, and the one I use most often is pseudonymous.

My clearly stated preference was to not link my pseudonymous identities on G+ and YouTube, as well as not to link either to real-world identifiers. I'd actually posted on the custom URL issue (phone number required) a few weeks back. That identifier then turned out to show up as a reverse-lookup to your G+ account. There are people who know me IRL and have my phone number. I'd prefer they did not identify it with my G+ identity.

I am happy Google is pushing lots of annoying questions to remind everyone there is no reason to be logged in to Google to view Youtube videos.

There are some videos, generally flagged for violence, which cannot be viewed unless you're identified to the service. A surprising number of breaking news story coverage is unavailable on those grounds.

Many of those age-restricted videos can still be embedded, and viewed through the embed url without logging in.

As an awareness programme, it's working marvellously.

I just went to plus.google.com and I had a huge popup asking me to subscribe a bunch of things and enable a bunch of notifications.

Things I've explicitly turned off, because I dont want to be bugged all the time.

The only way to move on was to edit the URL back to what it was before I got redirected.

Google+ is all about coercion. There's really no mistaking about that.

Is there a browser plugin or something that can keep google in check? Like separating youtube, gmail and the search into different "sandboxes"? Maybe blocking some of the annoying popups that constantly demand your info? I'm not familiar with such a thing, but it could be kinda nice to have it.

I don't know but you can use private or incognito mode, or different browsers (Firefox, I.E., TorBrowser...) to be logged in differently. NoScript can block popups, may glitch site.

Edit: For Youtube, if you turn on safe mode, hiding comments, it may prevent the box talking about the new comments section, but now I do not see see it with it off, so I may be wrong.

Even if you run YouTube, Gmail and search in different incognito windows so that they don't share cookies, they could still figure out that all these requests were coming from the same browser (via browser fingerprinting) at the same IP address.

I've been told by a Google engineer (on G+) that IP addresses aren't used for identity purposes. Whether or not they're aggregated at other levels ... would be interesting. I'm not sure whether or not browser fingerprinting is used at all, though I've suggested some reasonably non-invasive ways in which it might be applied for abuse and harassment mitigation, say: hashing fingerprints and storing them with the complainant's account in order to detect sockpuppet attacks.

You couldn't reverse the hash to determine the fingerprint, but if fingerprints matched, you'd have identical hashes. Splitting out different data records might help create probabalistic matches (e.g., n of m hashes match for an identity probability of p).

Tor would of course address IP issues. Privoxy could handle browser fingerprinting.

There used to be Moxie's "googlesharing" Firefox extension, but it is totally busted these days.

What do you think you'd be accomplishing with this? Google knows all of those accounts are associated with the same person already. Otherwise they wouldn't be asking you to merge them. They just want your official stamp on it so you feel like they asked your permission first.

I wish they were as innovative in their marketing practice as in apps. They seem to replicate whatever Facebook is doing to milk more users for more data. And something Facebook doesn't have to do - frantically coerce people to join Google+ on a massive scale.

I think it's a result of a lesson learned with Buzz. There was a lot of media hype about it, but very little push to the masses (compared to Google+). And, rightly so, it died off. Cause on its own merit, it kind of sucked and got no traction, despite the formidable Google force behind it.

With Google+ - the last hope of the Empire in social media battle - everything goes.

This annoys the hell out of me because I know as well as they do that one day I'll misclick one of these fucking things.

You can only grow a user base that is engaged with your product organically, not by forcing them.

Google Plus - as in, the actual plus.google.com website and app, the Facebook competitor - has basically failed in this regard. The people on it love it! I've been on it since it started. But the people on Buzz loved that too, before Google unceremoniously shot it through the head.

Basically, the existing user base doesn't matter. So they might as well go straight to forcing people onto it, since they failed to lure them onto it.

Humans are no longer responsible for such things at google. If you have objections, submit them to the Algorithm, Who already knows what you have to say and doesn't care.

Sadly it is a trend, started with companies adding toolbars to software you have to deselect, then they ask you again EVERY update (Adode looking at you amongst others here). Then there is the constant mistargeted adverts, say for a product you already own, analytics at its meh.

Personaly one that has been grinding my gears recently is avast on a pc which constantly keeps popping up a link to read about FB privacy, I don't do Facebook and with that my privacy is alrady covered. yet this pop's up many a time, I use 3G internet upon that PC so suspect every time I get a new IP (often) then the advertising popup for the self promoting article gets flagged up again.

In an age of computers able to remember what we forget or wish to forget it is somewhat annoying to be asked the same question over and over again in the hope you will eventualy say yes too there satisfaction and voiding the upmteen no responses you have said. Yet once you say yes you aint asked again if you would like to say no instead, funny that.

But this is the case with software you can't download, hack about and compile to taste. With that I support this mentality as it will only push people into learning something new. That said if I ever have a problem with a company like google can I ask them umpteen times the same question until I get the answer I want? Only fair in implied contract law perhaps :).

With that the days of software acting like a small kid constantly asking for a bike at for Christmas will be with us for a while longer until the yes and no response have equal value too them. Until then, is it yes yet? is it yes yet? is it yes yet?.....

I don't like the "persistence" of Google either, but... if you want to use their package of services (Plus, GMail, others...) the stakes are just going to get higher and higher.

Today, it's a cell phone number for the "benefit" security. Tomorrow, they will ask for a SSN in order to use Gmail.

They offer free services for one reason, and one reason only... and it isn't because they like giving away stuff.

Google is offering "X" service so they can bargain your data out of you, more and more of your data. That, IMO, is the reality of the situation. I would challenge that most people don't understand fully the bargain they are getting.

Google knows most people don't understand this bargain.

Now, that said, do they offer value in the services they provide in exchange for this data? Sure.

If you want that value, they will either:

1. Get your data, and quit asking for it.

2. Not get your data, but keep asking for it, as many times as they want, because it's their sandbox.

And here's the kicker in my opinion, millions of people are going to keep signing up for and using their free services, and keep offering their data in exchange for using their services.

The Google world just keeps on turning...

Like youtube, they asked you to make you feel like you had a choice. (i may be wrong)

Isn't the real point here the relative quality difference between Google's search and the rest of their products?

The search result looks pretty good...

Google search has become fuzzier over recent years. When I look for something technical, I almost always have to go back and put quotes around the terms, because Google prefers to display a different search for more common, related terms.

This brings up the Google Interface. I used to be able to use + in front of a term I wanted to be treated literally. Now I have to use quotes, which is 4 keystrokes (including shift) instead of 1 for plus.

Google also has removed my ability to block certain URLs from your search results. Now I cannot avoid the re-linker web sites, and occasionally get suckered into clicking one. That is really irritating.

In spite of this, Google still provides the best search I've seen. I recently compared Google and Bing in an obscure search. Google had 45 hits, Bing 15.

Ah yes, the vocal minority...

Gretchen: That is so fetch.

Regina: Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen. It's not going to happen

I am really worried about being forced to log into google to use chrome these days.. there is a "skip for now" button. I hate this we-know-whats-best-for you approach..

Im thinking about writing a FireFox extension that substitutes the word Google with Panopticon on all of their web properties as a reminder to use their tools less frequently.

I panopticoned multiple times, but never figured out the reference you made. Care to elaborate?

I'm referring to the following definition on Panopticon:

>The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not.

Dear Google,

Thank you for all the free services you have delivered over the years. Please do not listen to all those complaining about stuff they get for free. As free as they were to sign up, they also have a choice to opt-out at any moment.

They blindly agreed to the Terms of Service which warned them, yet now complain as if they are entitled to anything.

Look at them and laugh

I am asked for a phone number most times that I actually log into mail (which isn't all that often since I just sleep the computer). Youtube is a travesty, though.

After the recent upgrade, it did ask twice to turn on Talk for SMS messaging. I said no both times and it hasn't asked me since.

My wish for Google is different. I want it to keep interfering how I like to consume its services. I want them to keep needling me. And everyone else. This is the surest path to a competitor with a better value proposition.

Dear user, stop using google.

A lot of the problem is reneging on previous privacy/data segregation policies. That is an entirely legitimate complaint.

There's also the question of to what extent you can opt out in the modern world. Got a mobile phone, pretty much essential to work or life these days? Your life is now beholden to Google or Apple. So yeah, people damn well do have a right to complain, and "just don't use it" is a fatuous thing to say.

Useful reading from a real-life example: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115668950429167517685/posts/JcPQ...

Google or Apple?

Funny. Do you really think they're same? A company making money by SELLING PRIVACY, and a company making money by SELLING HARDWARE?

A company exists to make money. And all what they do is decided to make money. Which one would really have interest to take your privacy? Apple? That really doesn't help them to make money. They even tried, but failed. They're really suck at making money from privacy, and it degraded reputation of their product.

If you really think Apple is selling your privacy, tell me what's the REASON. How will they make money from it rather than losing their money.

Google? See what's happening now.

Why do some people always want to tie Google with Apple? Which makes money from completely different sources. The money source defines how the company behave. If you really know that fact, you really can't say that stupid tie up.

Your life is beholden by Google, not Apple. Someday maybe Apple does that - which is very unlikely happen, but not now. And the day will come after whole existing privacy sells - such as Google - are dead, so Apple dominate whole the market.

OP here.

First off: thanks for the visibility. I've been railing about this pretty much since G+ started (originally with nymwars) and Google just seems to continue not getting it. Mega thanks to David for getting this on the queue and everyone who upvoted. For something which was just a throwaway post (as I said: I was looking for one of my own earlier instances and stumbled across a whole trove), this had legs.

The HN moral: sometimes your best work is the stuff that takes little effort, thought it helps to hit the Zeitgeist wave just right.

I ... don't dislike Google, though the company's made itself vastly harder to like, and for me personally, its brand equity has been tremendously hurt by my experience to its corporate goals and motives surrounding G+, pretty much from the start. My history with the company goes back further -- I was using its search during beta in 1998/1999, and the reason was simple: it made things easier for me, and performed useful tasks, far better than anyone else at the time.

For a long time I saw Google bashing as almost entirely a Microsoft phenomenon, but I've got to say that's no longer the case. I'm absolutely no friend of Redmond's, and have watched events there over the past few months with no small amount of schadenfreude. There's no question that Microsoft continues to bash Google (sometimes effectively, often pretty cluelessly). It's very clear to me that there's a pretty solid and consistent backlash not just from techies, but as the G+ search I ran made clear, from ordinary people sick of intrusive questions.

I could wax on about privacy, and people who could be endangered or put in harm's way or find their lives ruined or what if Stalinist Nazi Cthulu buys Google... and all of that's entirely valid, but it's besides the point. Even if none of that applies, and you prefer not to have your personal data aggregated, if you say "no", the meaning is simple: "no". Stop asking. Don't go ahead and do it anyway. Don't put buttons where they're likely to get hit accidentally, or confusing dialogs, or interstitials, or anything else.

Because it's about respect.

But even if none of the factors above apply, the simple fact that I've and many, many others have made amply clear that no, we don't wish to provide this information, no, we don't wish to link our various associated identities, and no, we don't want to be part of your "identity network", means that Google (and, to be fair, a great many other companies and entities) are going OUT OF THEIR WAY TO EXPLICITLY DISRESPECT THAT PREFERENCE.

And that Google, very, very clearly, no longer respects me, or any of its users, based on far too many of its actions. Where Google used to make a decent coin offering incidental ads on top of a useful services, it's ... lost its way.

The data aggregation is one part of it. "No" means "No". It's a really simple message.

Somewhat ironically, I'd recently kicked off a G+ Community (private and invite only, sorry, I've actually transferred ownership to others as well) to discuss an anti-harassment policy following a long and detailed discussion:


Google's own inability to play by similar rules is ... interesting.

I'd also been reviewing some older posts, mine and other people's, as well as many of the YouTube top contributor responses (Reggie, Jonathan Paula, and others). Three points that kept getting made again and again were:

1. Google's interfaces make tons of work for users. It's sort of the anti-Perl: they make easy things hard (and tedious), and hard things impossible. Responding to YouTube comments, muting or blocking users, flagging spam, setting volume controls, managing Circles, checking on blocked / muted users, and on and on. In particular the fact that to take care of a problem here and now you've got to go somewhere else within the site to deal with it. The lack of concurrent controls is ... maddening.

2. There was no direct control over things. Google apparently are trying to handle everything "behind the scenes" through machine intelligence. And far too often doing an absolutely miserable job of it, especially where some very basic controls (dismiss post, time-out a user, comment moderation tools for posts) would help tremendously. I've seen some suggestions that earlier iterations (Wave or Buzz) are considered to have failed in part because their interfaces were too complex, but if anything G+ suffers from too few controls. And one sign of an oversimplified interface is that people start devising conventions to get around limitations. This happens on G+ in spades.

3. Noise controls. People's streams are absolutely out of control. I'd noted starting in March or thereabouts that I was finding Notifications and Search far more useful than my Stream. In a discussion of the +1 automatic share issue, Lauren Weinstein's guests similarly noted that they were using their Streams less and less:


In particular, Robert Scoble (the old noisemaker hisself) has ranted repeatedly and epicly on the lack of proper noise controls on G+, from pretty much day 1. This is from about a year in, but few of the points have been addressed:


When I go to a site such as Hacker News or Reddit, I typically look at the front page first to see what's been selected. Because, well, it's been selected. G+ Streams and Communities don't do that. I turn to them, if at all, after going through Notifications or explicitly searching for things. I recently suggested G+ fix "What's Hot" by simply renaming it "What's Rot".

Who really nailed it for me though was Homer Slated's comment on this issue at G+ (NB: it's a touch piquant):


In a comment he writes, that when receiving a Notification from Google:

[W]hat Google is doing is, essentially, telling me that it's found a word in the dictionary that I might be interested in, that it's seven letters long and contains the letter "g", but rather than just telling me what the word is, or even linking directly to it, it simply links me to a dictionary, then expects me to spend hours trawling through that dictionary just to finds that word....

It helps to understand that Google is not a search company, or a social networking outfit, or an email provider ... it's an advertising company, and therefore everything it does is oriented toward the principle of "promotion"....

While I have no doubt that Google has highly sophisticated search algorithms working behind the scenes, the results that you and I are actually presented with, and the mechanisms for obtaining those results, are skewed toward "buzz", not accuracy or relevance.

In other words, if Google were a news organisation, it wouldn't be reporting the news, it would be fabricating it, then tailoring that work of fiction to appeal to (what it believes is) your "general" interests.

If there was a single word that could concisely sum up Google, it would be "vague". Google is deliberately vague, it's notifications are vague, the way it handles articles and comments is vague, its search results are vague ... and by no accident. Google is deliberately vague because it wants to steer you away from what's actually relevant to you, and what actually interests you, to those things it wants you to become interested in.

In a G+ post I discussed lies. The common one is the lie of commission: I tell you something that's not true, a fabrication. Another, slightly more nuanced, is the lie of omission -- neglecting to inform you of a material fact. You'll find it especially referenced in business contracts, particularly real-estate and M&A concerning adverse conditions. A third type is what I've called a "lie of diversion". It's generally not a truth or a non-truth itself, but its purpose is to obscure truth, meaning, and relevance. It's at the heart of much of what's wrong (IMO) with "viral media" and messages -- little non-facts floating around in little non-informational nuggets, clogging up your cognitive circuits. And processing all that non-information takes a lot of effort.


The biggest problem with G+ I was consistently running into was simply the non-relevance of what it was presenting me. And that's a change fundamentally due, I suspect, to its reliance on advertising and the culture this brings.

Google thought it could ride the advertising tiger when it opted to go that way early in its career. And for a time it did. But in a long and storied career of riding tigers, I've learned two things: ultimately the tiger is in control, and dismounting is the hardest part.

The lack of respect is why I feel that Google's corporate culture is fundamentally broken. Whether it's a rotten core or a rotten head I don't know. I absolutely don't question that there are some very well-meaning people working for Google, especially within the engineering staff. Possibly high on the org chart. But enough people, in enough positions of power, and I strongly suspect Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, and Vic Gundotra as being part of that group, either don't get it, are actively pursuing personal data aggregation, or, and this actually frightens me more: have been persuaded that it's in their best interest to follow this path via a deal they cannot refuse.

Frankly, none of those possibilities does much to give me any level of faith in the company. Or in any centrally-organized personal data-gathering effort.

If you register a new account, verifying by mobile is mandatory now :(

Really? I just created a new G+ name and it only wanted a captcha. (It also created a GMail for me, though I didn't ask for one.) That was from my home IP, which has one other GMail user; I'll experiment from other places.

The answer is pretty simple: the Google+ deciders don't get social. They think very differently from their users and they refused to listen for past 2-3 years.

To upload all the pictures I click automatically to Google's server. What's up with that? Stop, asking.

Facebook does the exact same thing. They want your interests so that they can show you ads.

We're not taking about Facebook.

And Facebook does same thing doesn't justify anything. It just means they're same. Also Facebook has a lot better configurable personal policy.

Anyway, that's awesome finally we have two options. If we can make them compete, we will get the service in cheaper price - with less personal information. Currently Facebook looks obvious winner in this field, because users don't even realize they're offering stuffs to Facebook, and Google has big resist.

They don't tend to have tentacles into your mail or phone, however.

Next step, forcing Android users to have G+ accounts.


And stop asking if I want to download the youtube app every time I go to youtube.com in mobile safari (It is the pop-up banner of this generation.) That goes for all you clever scripting savvy marketers, I fucking despise you.

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