The OG Social Network: Other People’s Websites

“Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

That’s Google’s stated mission.

But what if the world's information becomes locked in disparate silos, inaccessible to a search engine? Is there a future where Google dies on the vine, not enough content to make their engine useful?

Walled social networks were always a problem for Google.

But now there’s Slack. Discord. Substack. Newsletters. Paywalls. All walled and inaccessible to Google — an existential problem.

Perhaps history will conclude killing Google reader killed Google, an overly-simplistic conclusion but poetically ironic nonetheless.

Google+ was Google trying to mimic the walled garden of Facebook — their “how” of extracting value from the people of the internet.

But they already had an answer for Facebook’s News Feed in front of them: Blogger / Google Reader, the read / write of the internet.

The mistake was killing Reader to make Plus a success. Google’s judo move would’ve been to embrace the open web as a social network. Not their network but our network.

They provide the tools – Reader, Blogger, Search — we provide the personal websites. The open, accessible, indexable web as The Next Great Social Network.

A dream? Alas.

Google has stood on top of the success of communities. Groups of people who write content and curate interestingness by linking to other things for humans. Could PageRank have been invented today?

So much online activity is less public now as companies strive to capture the value we create being online with each other — the value I’m creating right now by writing this and linking to other things, things not on Discord or Slack or Confluence but on other peoples’ websites.

Other people’s websites are the OG social network, and the optimist in me is going to riff on MLK’s quote: the social arc of the internet is long, but it bends towards individual websites.