February 28, 2012

Goodbye, Google Friend Connect–Now What?

Image of Google Friend Connect badge widget

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, 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. (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 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 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 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, 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.)

  • Subscribe via RSS
  • Subscribe via email (currently sent on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

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?

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I don’t believe wordpress users are allowed to install GFC on their blogs (as far as I know. Could be wrong though!) Still, even before I started a blog, I never found GFC useful even back in the days when I just read and interacted with other blogs! That’s just my opinion though.

Free blogs are great in the beginning. However if we see ourselves committed to doing this long term, and our blogs consistently show steady growth, there does come a point where we do need to consider some sort of self-hosting. As you said, we would own all content. I would love to learn more about how to make that transition and what kind of costs are associated with it too. Great post, Jami! 🙂

Ava Jae

Wait…so it’s going to delete all of those feeds? Surely it’ll still at least send the ones that are already connected to the Google Feedreader…right?

Heather Day Gilbert
Heather Day Gilbert

Okay, I’m officially panicked. I was building those numbers slowly…working on that author platform…aghh! So how do agents/publishers know where you “stand” with blog appeal now? Should I focus all my efforts on twitter followers, which can be quantified (and yes, I have that problem of twitter “unfollowing” people, of its own accord). I need to switch my blog domain title anyway, but don’t want to shell out the big bucks to do a .org yet.

And it’s not legal to own two FB sites? WHAT!??? Sometimes, I want to revert back to the early 1900s around here.

Thanks for your ever-helpful posts, Jami. I WILL FIND YOU once the GFC goes down!

Jami's Tech Guy

Awww thanks! *blush* I’m happy I was able to figure it out even that quickly.

You’ve built a great site by leveraging some very useful services. Unfortunately, each new one makes it tougher to troubleshoot site oddities. Especially when one of those services are lame and don’t consider what happens to their client sites when they are offline. *glares at your mobile site service*

Free “cloud” services are great if you remember you’re not the customer, you’re the product. These services earn their revenue from ad sales or upselling to a paid product with more goodies than the free version.

A related risk, beware of services which lock your data in to their sites. If you can’t easily get your data out, you’re at their whim. We make it easy for our clients to backup their data, it is our goal to provide such good service that they won’t use their backups to move it somewhere else.

*inserts gratuitous plug for our web hosting service*


Buffy Armstrong

My blog is new and I’ve very proud of my 29 or so blog followers that show up on my GFC widget even though one of them is my husband and he doesn’t really count! I use Blogger so it shouldn’t erase mine (right?), but I would be so sad if I had built a sizable group of followers only to have it disappear because of the whim of some internet company. On the other hand, Google is a company. They have a responsibly to shareowners and employees alike. Their objective is to make money, not give stuff away for free. That be said, it’s still annoying.

I’m always at loss when it comes to stuff like this (Free vs. Paying, Ownership vs. Non-ownership.) It’s exhausting to keep it all straight. I always try to make the best decision for myself, but I just don’t know. How do we know?

Nancy S. Thompson

Yes, this bums me out a bit. I’ve worked hard to gain my 300 followers & often use the GFC to link back to their profiles & blogs. I never use the feeder. But for my favorite blogs, like yours, I keep the shortcut directly on my iPhone home screen so I always have a reminder for who to visit since I pretty much know everyone’s schedule. But when I get a new follower, I make sure I visit & return the favor. I guess that might not be possible anymore which means I might be losing out on some great friendships. Very sad.

Kait Nolan

I never used google friend connect because, of course, I have a blog that doesn’t allow the code. I was never much of a fan because a) I prefer to follow the handful of blogs I follow via an email subscription (something many many people don’t offer) and b) it seemed like just another metric that was a popularity contest of some kind that was exclusive to some segments. It never seemed in any way a meaningful measure of your reach or impact because there is no real interaction required. You click a button and woo, you’re suddenly “following” someone. There is no way to measure that those people ever actually DO anything after that.

That being said, I think you should offer as many means as possible for folks to follow your blog (email, rss, a livejournal syndicated feed, Networked Blogs whatever), so for folks who will be missing GFC, I point you to Linky Followers. Same concept as GFC, but not owned by one of the big companies that so like to change things. And it even works on blogs.


I’m not much for social networking in general. I have a Facebook page, and my own blog, of course. But so many people use technology as a replacement for actually spending time with people. You know, in person. Face to face. Sometimes I curse Mark Zuckerberg for creating Facebook.

I’m not yet at the point where I have to worry about fans or a reader base or anything of that nature, so I’m going to continue in my little social anti-media ways for the time being. 🙂

Although I did just send you a friend request on Goodreads. Because, you know, you can never have too many book recommendations.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson

So it’s not just me that Twitter messes with? 😉 *sigh* I could not figure out what was going on there.

And don’t get me started on Triberr. Grrrr.

Julie Hedlund

This may be a dumb question, but if Google Friend Connect is going away, does that mean that every site that I followed through GFC I will no longer follow? I’ll have to go and RE-follow them?

I’m so glad I’m on wordpress and didn’t have this built into my own site.

You raise some very good issues about how much we rely on all of these websites/services over which we have NO control.


I’ve used Blogger blogs—my own “Another Author’s 2 Pence” is one—but I back it up. I have copies of everything. I could easily move it over to my owned domain and server and WordPress install—but I prefer Blogger’s blogging interface. For now, at least.

My comments are outsourced to another provider that I’ve found more reliable than the Blogger comments function. Widgets that are required for my site to work aren’t outsourced other than what’s inherent in my server and host—I’ll use free code, as long as I can copy and paste it, but generally, I write my own.

I’ve actually been considering wiping my WordPress install on my site and going back to coding by hand. I mostly haven’t bothered because I never have gotten around to creating a mobile template, and I know a percentage of my site visitors are mobile users.

Jemi Fraser

I’ve been refollowing a lot of blogs with the rss feature in my google reader. but I keep my blogs in folders and I can’t seem to add in the ‘new’ blogs that way. I’m a little frustrated with it all!

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

As my last day on my current job is Friday, I’ma get some good time soon to move my entire site from I’ll be hosting my own site.

I want to list events I’m taking part in, a wish list, books and stories I’ll hopefully publish, things I’m selling on e-bay, my art, etc.

You can hack many of those things into blogger or wordpress sites, but it’s cumbersome. I want full control of layout.

Fortunately, I am professional software developer, so I can manage building something like that, but yah, I totally sympathize with those who aren’t tech savvy.

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

Congrats Roxanne!

Good luck with the site. Be very aware of security issues. Hosted sites with good bandwidth are very attractive to pirates looking for new ways to distribute their “warez.”

It would be a sad irony if your site was hacked and used to distribute pirated ebooks. (Jami’s site gets around 150-200 hacking attempts per day.)

Feel free to message me on Twitter if you want to talk security. I’m certifiable…as an ethical hacker. 🙂


Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

No problem with security. To brag, I worked on the Microsoft crypto team for 5 years 🙂

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

Yes, very cool.


Sabrina Garie

This was really useful, really points out issues we need to think about. My goal is simplicity–focus on a few (twitter and wordpress blog) to keep it under control. Thanks from a newbie.


Adriana Ryan

Hey Jami!
Yeah, the whole GFC thing is annoying. At first I was annoyed because I couldn’t have it on my WordPress blog. Now I’m annoyed because they’re going away. LOL I have a paid WordPress place, but it’s through their $17/year thingy. I don’t know what that service is called–I just know it’s not their .org site. Like Kait, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Linky Followers. They’ve been around for a while for people doing blog hops. I’m not sure I’ll have that option for people to follow me. I feel like Twitter, FB, and a blog subscription button are pretty good in and of themselves.

Roni Loren

Great post with some food for thought. The ownership thing is the main reason I moved everything over to my website and gave up my Fiction Groupie blog even though it’d taken 3 yrs to build that following. It was such a hard decision, but I didn’t want to keep building something on someone else’s “property”. I use Squarespace now, which is an alternative to and I’m very happy with it.

As for GFC, I wouldn’t have had to give mine up because I think it can stay on blogger blogs for now, but can I say how NICE it is NOT to have some number glaring in the corner anymore. I felt way too attached to that number once it got nice and fat. But it really means nothing. Some people sign up and never come back. Number of hits, comments, retweets, etc. are a much better gauge. So it’s actually kind of freeing not to have the GFC staring at me. 🙂

Marcy Kennedy

I’ve never used GFC, so in that way it doesn’t effect me at all, but I feel bad for all the bloggers who used it to build their fan base. I was extremely fortunate in that my sister-in-law is a web designer, and she set up my website on a site. I had no idea at the time that this would be better than going with a free site, but just having someone to call when something goes wrong makes it well worth the additional cost for me.

shah wharton
shah wharton

I’m not going to be losing it, but I’m not sure I’d mind losing it on my newer author blog. But on WordsinSync I would as I have over 600 (I think) followers now. But like you say, the numbers mean little in reality.

I had never thought about ownership of blogs before. I really think I have to now. You’ve given my the heebie-jeebies about losing all I’ve built up if Google so chose – I have three free blogs with blogspot. Scary. I’m going to look into it (although I tried to last year and it flew right over my little head).

Really valuable post. My first time here and I think you may be entering my blog-roll! Great to find you. 🙂 (found you on Shah Wharton Author New – btw) X

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

Hi Shah, if you’re on Twitter, feel free to bounce any questions you have off me. I’m happy to help translate geek speak to English.


Barbara McDowell

Fantastic post, Jami! Since I have a WP .com blog, I’ve never done anything with GFC. What hits me is what you talked about in terms of ownership. We put all this work in on our blogs, but what happens if WP goes away? Would we be able to migrate info or have to start over?

And I’m torn on moving to .org in big part because of the tech learning curve. Would I need to know some code stuff to be able to customize? Then there is selecting a hosting service. Okay…I’m stressing already.

Angela Ackerman

This really does suck, and I don’t really understand why blogger is doing it. Forcing people into Google+ is a stupid move, because it’s already growing quite well. Whenever you force someone, it pisses everyone off.

I had tripped on a site that could work like friend connect, and I saved the bookmark, but do you think now I can find it? #ugh. If I do, I’ll send it your way. 🙂


[…] Jami Gold asks a thought-provoking question: How can we reliably build a platform on social media services we do not own and cannot control? She asks this in response to the discontinuation of Google Friend Connect service, which many […]


Im kinda confused about this who Google Connect thing. I’ve got a website via that does allow the codes and platforms for this. I’ve had GFC on my side bar for over a year. Yet yesterday it’s not loading correctly. Does that mean the widget had retired and is no longer functionable for my website? As I see that people with blogger websites still have there GFC up and running. Is this just a stab at us users? Or will it work out its glitches in a few days?


Do you know are we going to able to migrate data in some straightforward manner? What happens to comments API?

I’m not a blogger, but I’ve implemented GFC on my website (helping people with bureaucratic issues in my country), and there were plenty of useful comments now stuck somewhere in Google vaults. I used the toolbar too, but that’s now my primary problem now.

Strangest thing is that I cannot find any useful info on the web, as if GFC was used by bloggers solely to get followers.

Kind regards from Serbia!

Julia Tomiak

Thanks for all of this great technical information. I just started blogging a few months ago and I’m trying to absorb as much information as I can. I have subscribed directly to your RSS feed – it’s in my Google Reader account and shouldn’t disappear, right? I’ve learned quickly that everything changes and that we writers need to help each other stay on top of things. Thanks so much!


[…] Random Musings Now that the dust has settled from the disappearance of Google Friend Connect (GFC) from all non-Blogger blogs, I thought I’d post a followup examining how much the […]

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