We’ve all seen the Google Friend Connect (GFC) widgets on websites and blogs we visit. Some sites have asked us to join GFC to qualify for a contest or giveaway. On our own blogs, we enjoy seeing the avatars of our readers (and the numbers of our “members” go up).
However, Google is retiring GFC for all non-Blogger blogs on March 1st. *cue gnashing of teeth*
(March 2013 Update: With the news of the shutdown of Google Reader on July 1, 2013, it looks like GFC might be going away for Blogger/Blogspot blogs as well.)
Some bloggers built their platform around the goal of increasing their GFC numbers. Some bloggers let GFC handle their newsletter signup. The loss of GFC is cutting out the heart of some blogs.
How Should We Build Our Platform?
This situation exposes a huge risk in our platform-building efforts. We build networks on Twitter—which we don’t “own” or control. Ditto for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Triberr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Klout, etc. Many of us blog on Google’s Blogger/Blogspot or WordPress.com, so we don’t even own our blogs or websites.
The changes Facebook imposes on its users make headlines: Timeline, changing security policies, etc. Some people have been kicked off Facebook or Google+, losing all contacts and friends, because of false allegations about infractions to the terms of service.
Countless authors I know have a personal profile and a pen name profile on Facebook. Every one of them could lose everything because multiple profiles are against Facebook’s rules.
I’m not trying to be alarmist. Most social media platforms don’t want to upset their users, but things happen.
Klout made thousands of people feel like they were demoted when they restructured their Klout score algorithms several months ago. Trunk.ly (which I loved) was bought by Delicious and is now non-functional. Twitter oh-so-unhelpfully unfollows people for me all the time.
My point is there’s nothing preventing any social media platform from doing whatever they want, whether it hurts us, our network, or our platform. So what can we do?
How Seriously Do You Take Your Platform?
Using free services (such as Blogger or WordPress.com) for our blog when we’re first starting out can make sense for many of us. We want to see how this blogging thing works, and we want to make sure we’re committed before shelling out money.
However, once we’re serious about writing, becoming an author, and building a platform, ownership should be one of the considerations when we decide how to grow ourselves online.
Maybe that means going with a paid WordPress.org website/blog (.com is free, but .org requires an external hosting provider) for our home base. Or maybe that means making sure our newsletter signup program creates the email list of our readers on our server so we never lose our core network.
I’ve gone the ownership route with some things. This blog is a WordPress.org site, and my newsletter signup interfaces with a database on my site. But for other things, I can’t justify the expenditure yet.
I have a free plugin that detects mobile readers and renders a mobile version of this site for them. Great! Except when the website of that plugin goes down, my entire site crashes.
I learned about that issue the hard way Sunday night. *wry smile* Luckily, my genius TechGuy figured out the problem after “just” a half hour of hair-pulling and was able to manually deactivate that plugin.
So in that case, I was burned by not having ownership of the mobile version of my site, and then I was saved by choosing to go with a real hosting provider who was able to help me fix it. If I’d been with WordPress.com, I would have been clueless about how to resolve the issue myself, and my whole website would have been offline until my mobile provider came back up.
Every time we go with free, we give up control or ownership in some way. Sometimes that trade off will be worth it, and sometimes it won’t. But if we’re not thinking about this issue, we might lose our platform before we realize it.
The Loss of Google Friend Connect
This brings us back to GFC. I’ve already removed the GFC widget from my sidebar, but there’s nothing I can do to “rebuild” that community. I was never one who pushed GFC for the numbers or the newsletter functionality, and I’d debated over whether to even add it to my site way back when. Even so, I don’t like the situation.
Google’s telling people upset about GFC to install a Google+ badge on their websites and blogs, but that’s a poor substitute. Don’t get me wrong, I like Google+. However, the badge just links to our Google+ profile (or page). There’s no widget with pretty avatars, no way to see if our friends are on a site too, and no option for a newsletter. Big whoop. I have that link on my sidebar already.
All I can do is point out to those who joined this site via GFC where they can find me and follow my blog posts. *sigh* So if you view this blog through your GFC/Blogger Dashboard, now would be a great time to sign up for the feed directly.
(Technically, none of these are “direct,” as they’re all run by Feedburner or NetworkedBlogs—more services I don’t own or control. *another sigh* NetworkedBlogs in particular has been known to fail every so often.)
(October 2012 Update: Rumors are circulating that Google is also shutting down Feedburner, so I’ve now moved my feed in house.)
In addition to those methods of keeping up with me, you can also sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar of my non-mobile site under the heading: Sign up for Jami’s Newsletter. (Clever, I know. *snicker*)
Or you can connect with me at:
There. No one can accuse me of not being social enough. *smile*
Do you have GFC on your blog? How does the GFC retirement affect you? Do you use a free blogging platform? Does the ownership issue matter to you? What free services or social platforms do you worry about, and how do you decide which to pay for?Pin It