Anonymous Speaks Volumes About Google+

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Say what you will about the pros and cons of Google+, but there's no denying that the arrival of the new social network has shaken things up considerably.

We've seen a battle arise over ownership of Facebook users' contact information, for instance, including Facebook's short-lived attempt to deactivate Open-Xchange's OX.IO export tool, among others.

Then there was Google's decision to shut Twitter traffic out of its social search results in favor of Google+. More recently, we've seen Facebook pull the plug on Google+ ads.

Now, as if even more excitement were needed, none other than Anonymous has announced that it's planning to create a Google+ rival of its own.

'Our Gmail Is Also Gone'

“As some of you know we got banned from Google+ due to some of our content,” the hacktivist group wrote in a blog post over the weekend.

In an earlier post, the group included a screenshot of the notification that its “Your Anon News” profile on Google+ had been suspended and noted that “our Gmail is also gone.”

Anonymous, of course, has gained tremendous notoriety for its hacktivist attacks on corporations and governments around the globe, including its recent targeting of U.S. government contractors.

In any case, “what we didn’t know at the time is that we were just one of a handful of Anonymous accounts that was silenced,” the group wrote. “This is the sad fact of what happens across the Internet when you walk to a different beat of the drum.”

'Welcome to Anon+'

In response, Anonymous has started to build its own social network, according to the blog post.

“This is one social network that will not tolerate being shut down, censored, or oppressed--even in the face of blackout,” it asserted. “We the people have had enough…enough of governments and corporations saying what’s best for us--what’s safe for our minds.

“The sheep era is over,” Anonymous concluded. “The interwebz are no longer your prison. Welcome to Anon+.”

Also mentioned in the post is an “operation” launched by “a few people” against Google+, though no details were provided as to what that may involve.

'The Project Is for All People'

AnonPlus, meanwhile, can now be seen in its earliest stages online through an “info dump of a site” that's been put up simply to dispense information, it explains. “Soon the actual site will go up and you can begin to interact with it.”

AnonPlus is not intended to be used only by the members of Anonymous, however.

“This project is for ALL people,” the site says. “This idea is a presstorm idea and only takes the name anon because of the Anonymity of the social network.”

The site's tag line is “Social Networking Anonymously,” and updates are being provided via Twitter.

A Locked-In World

It seems a fairly safe bet that AnonPlus won't be a serious competitor to Facebook and Google+, at least not for mainstream users in the near future. After all, the whole point of most social networking is to keep in touch with those who know who you are; anonymity would defeat much of that purpose.

It's also likely that Anonymous would have found itself kicked off Google+ at this early stage of the game regardless of its content, since that's what Google's been doing to pretty much every organization that has tried to join before its business profiles are ready.

Still, the group's move underscores a fundamental need for openness that just hasn't been satisfied so far by either Facebook or Google+. Both networks have an inherent interest in controlling and containing users' information and interactions, and that includes the businesses that participate on the sites as well.

Need for Openness

It remains to be seen what specific limitations Google will put on companies and their interactions with current and potential customers through its new business profiles, but--simply by virtue of the fact that the whole thing is controlled by a single entity, and Google, no less--you can be sure some limitations and plenty of potentially “creepy” integrations will be there.

I don't think a return to a completely anonymous Internet is the answer. I've been hoping open source Diaspora would gain enough traction to be a real contender; in the meantime, I do like Google+ better than I've ever liked Facebook.

But we need a more open alternative. A centrally controlled social network is no better than a centrally controlled society.

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