Crikey: Google+ is a goddam Trojan horse

So, there’s a reason Google is being so stubborn over this “real names” policy. Google+ isn’t a social network at all, despite the fact that it looks like one. It’s actually the core of an identity service.

I wrote about this for Crikey today, a piece that includes Google chair Eric Schmidt’s confirmation of that plan and some observations that suggest Google+ is failing to reach critical mass.

The continuing bad press over what’s been dubbed #nymwars won’t help. Yet I suspect that Google’s need and desire to prevent Facebook Connect becoming the planet’s default identity service will override most concerns.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Schmidt has always been the go-for-profits guy. Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page is reportedly aware of the problem, although an informative post by Stephen R van den Berg says it’s unclear whether he’s being properly informed about the criticism. That post was written a week ago, however, so I daresay Page has seen at least some of the news reports since. And the other co-founder, Sergey Brin, has been notably silent.

It feels like things have come a long way since my original expletive-filled rant.

Oh, and thank you to everyone who said they liked the Patch Monday podcast on this topic. That’s especially pleasant given my fears over the rushed recording.

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  1. David Gerard’s avatar

    Gold from Bob Blakley of Gartner: Google+ Can Be A Social Network Or The Name Police – Not Both:

    “Google+’s naming policy isn’t failing because it’s poorly implemented, or because Google’s enforcement team is stupid. It’s failing because what they’re trying to do is (1) impossible, and (2) antisocial. (2) is critical.”

    “If Google’s intention in moving into social networking is to sell ads, Google+’s common names policy gives them a lock on the North American suburban middle-aged conservative white male demographic.”

    Reply

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @David Gerard: Agreed, that article lays out some of the most powerful issues involved here.

    If you’re running an identity service, then you need to connect to people’s “wallet names” and do so consistently — which means properly handling the vast variety of legal names in different jurisdiction.

    This was of course the core of my gripe. Google had failed to deal with the legal reality facing them. I accept quite happily that some databases weren’t designed to cope and sometimes workarounds are required, like the US “FNU” procedure. And then you train your staff to handle it.

    But if you’re running a social network, then you need to reflect how people’s naming practices work in social contexts. Half a moment’s thought would tell you that people identify themselves in different ways in different social situations, for all sorts of reasons.

    This part of the article stood out for me too:

    At the Christmas party, we introduced Sean to my wife’s grandmother for the first time, and she wasn’t having any of this “Sean” business. She said “Sean? What kind of a name is that? I’m going to call him ‘Mike’.”

    We were a year and a quarter into the Sean Michael Blakley personality experience and it was already clear to us that calling Sean “Mike” was not going to be a winning strategy. So we laid out the facts. “You can call him whatever you want”, we said, “but if you don’t call him ‘Sean’, he’s just going to ignore you”.

    Thanks for the pointer, David.

    Reply

  3. Dermott Banana’s avatar

    As you’d be aware Stilgherrian, my friends and I are watching the whole saga closely.
    Today, we saw this: http://searchengineland.com/google-removes-mashable-sesame-street-other-prominent-accounts-from-google-plus-86788
    And with Eric Schmidt and others making media statements that G+ is intended to be the way it is, and the current ‘issues’ are fully expected and set to be ignored by Google, the whole “plan” looks like a plot to trash Google’s reputation for benign professionalism, from within.

    Reply

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