Is it Legitimate/Ethical for Google to close Google+?

Update April 2, 2019: the links below are not working anymore. 

Google Plus is a nice social platform with tens of millions participants. I found it especially nice for scientific posts, e.g. by John Baez, Moshe Vardi, or about symplectic geometry,  about Majorana Fermions, and with a discussion about What is combinatorics. A few months ago Google announced  that Google+ will be closed. This is going to happen today (March 31, 2019) in a few hours. For example, I am not even sure if the above valuable links will continue to operate. (Every individual user can get his own stuff.)

For possible answers on why Google shut down Google Plus see this Quora question.

My question is different. Is it legitimate for Google to close Google+? Is it legitimate and is it ethical for Google to eliminate existing content from the public domain? 

Let me state clearly my opinion:

Google has strong ethical/moral obligation to maintain at least for several years public access to all Google+ existing material.

The fact that huge content that millions of people spent time and effort creating and that people spent time and effort to search and find, is deleted — by a huge and successful company — is very problematic


(Related post: What do firms want .)

This entry was posted in Economics, Open discussion, Rationality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Is it Legitimate/Ethical for Google to close Google+?

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    I quit trusting Google’s projects when they closed down Knol. I can’t imagine why anyone is surprised by their latest wasting of people’s time and work.

  2. Maurice Ramirez says:


    Legitimate: I am not sure, but I will bet “yes”
    Ethical: This is, as expected, debatable – but I will go for “yes”. Is it ethical that a cafe where many public discourses happened shut down coz it couldn’t afford the rent? I would think so. Won’t you?

    Google did allow us time to download our own stuff from Google +

  3. Gil Kalai says:

    I see in this case three possible obligations of Google:

    One is the obligation to give people access to their material. (There is a strong case for that, and I think Google met this obligation.)

    The second is the obligation to maintain public access to all existing material. Here they can give people time to remove any posts they want to remove and then essentially freeze the content for the public use. (Perhaps, with some limited removing ability by the users at a later time if needed.)

    I think there is a strong case for obligation #2. The fact that huge content that people spent time and effort creating and that people spent time and effort to search and find, is deleted (by a huge and successful company) is problematic

    The third possible obligation would be to continue running the platform as is. I agree that the case for this is considerably weaker, although it may be justified to demand that Google will give a clear sincere statement for the reasons of closing Google +.

    As I said, I think the case for the maintaining the material for public use is serious. If not for infinity at least for several years.

  4. Jon Awbrey says:

    At least when Google closed down Knol they ported the content over to the Annotum platform under WordPress. Annotum went belly up shortly afterwards but it wasn’t too hard to reformat the lion’s share of the content under a more standard WordPress theme.

  5. vznvzn says:

    😥 there was another exceptional blog site called “open salon” run by Salon with tens of thousands of blogs/ users that shut down. boy miss that one.

    there is a lot of wreckage in cyberspace in its early days during the dotcom era. it brings to mind economist trumpeters observation about “creative destruction”. cyberspace is roughly a teenager now but theres still quite a bit of instability. anyway you dont mention the 500lb gorilla facebook that is behind the scenes and caused other web sites to shut down also. do you miss myspace? rupert murdoch probably does, he famously spent $600M on it only to have it later vaporize. cyberspace is sometimes a graveyard littered with bones.

    google shut down the site saying “few people are using it”. google put a lot of resources into the project at one point but scaled back a few years ago when (apparently) it was clear to them it wasnt gaining traction or momentum against facebook. so its been a slow death but predictable from that scaleback.

    yes, do think cyberspace needs a few more options for social media, its consolidating into places like reddit and stackexchange which honestly have pretty limited freedom of expression at times. it all comes down to moderators who have their own idiosyncracies/ agendas, and are given a lot of power to reject content with strong authority and no questions/ dissent allowed.

  6. I hope very much that people whose work (“intellectual content”) is lost due to the decision of Google to discontinue the platform, can sue Google for damages. Probably, the issue was already addressed by lawyers who deal with e-only publications. Assume you subscribed and purchased “perennial right” of access from a certain publisher. What happens when if the publisher goes bankrupt? Today there are “insurance options” which (for an extra fee) guarantee you that no matter what happens with the publisher, the purchased information will be always available online. In theory, any business that provides a platform for posting “an intellectual property” must get insured.

  7. I hope very much that people whose work (“intellectual content”) is lost due to the decision of Google to discontinue the platform

  8. Josiah Park says:

    Does the wayback machine not crawl google plus webpages regularly?

    It appears one can find old content from old google plus webpages there (see for instance). If so, it should not be much of a problem, as the pages can still be reached there.

    FYI, it is possible to save webpages to the Internet Archive using by plugging the url in for # in It is too late to do this now, but when one is expecting web content to be removed shortly and would like to read it later, it is a good practice, and works for most text/image focused webpages.

    Of course, this ignores the problem of keeping the pages on the archive long-term.

  9. Pingback: Avi Wigderson’s: “Integrating computational modeling, algorithms, and complexity into theories of nature, marks a new scientific revolution!” (An invitation for a discussion.) | Combinatorics and more

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