Google hasn’t actually lied, but it hasn’t exactly been honest either. Its new social network service (SNS) Google+ may look like an SNS and act like an SNS, but it’s not. It’s bait.
This is why Google is so stubbornly fighting the #nymwars over its controversial “real names” policy.
You know, the one where the message is essentially screw you, Google doesn’t care what you want to call yourself. Google doesn’t care whether linking your real name — what some people call your “wallet name” because it’s on all the plastic in your wallet — to your online comments might get you sacked from your job, outed as the only gay in the socially conservative village or your door kicked in by the police.
It really, really doesn’t care. It has a bigger objective in mind.
Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial and get Crikey straight to your inbox
It’s building an identity service.
Sweet Jesus! Google+ is a goddam Trojan horse! And this comes straight from the horse’s mouth, to jumble metaphors.
Google chair Eric Schmidt said it himself during an interview in Edinburgh with Andy Carvin from US National Public Radio.
Carvin’s post — on Google+ if you’ll excuse the irony — paraphrases Schmidt’s comments on real names:
“He replied by saying that G+ was build [sic] primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they’re going to build future products that leverage that information.
“Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, he said G+ is completely optional. No one is forcing you to use it. It’s obvious for people at risk if they use their real names, they shouldn’t use G+. Regarding countries like Iran and Syria, people there have no expectation of privacy anyway due to their government’s own policies, which implies (to me, at least) that Schmidt thinks there’s no point of even trying to have a service that allows pseudonyms.”
An identity service is the holy grail. If you become the trusted service that everyone uses to identity themselves online, authenticating them for everything from posting comments on news websites to making payments from your smartphone, then you get your cut of a massive global economy, whether you own those end services or not. Google would obviously want to make sure Facebook Passport doesn’t win that battle.
Google seriously wants your wallet name for that.
Oh, and it’d get to track everything people do.
And to achieve this, they’re for people at the margins to be excluded from social connections should the rest of their friends use Google+ become the place they interact and organise activities.
Earlier this year the United States, which, despite its collapsing economy, still likes to think it runs the world, put together the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) to protect us — well, Americans — against the horror of anonymity.
“Government officials have made clear that they want the push for identity authentication to come from private industry, as BigGov is wary of the backlash if they were to start issuing digital driver’s licences for navigating the internet,” wrote Kashmir Hill in Forbes.
I imagine that Schmidt sees a certain opportunity here for Google, and Google+ is the way they’ll get it.
Fortunately for those concerned that big business might be even worse than government in this realm — after all, Google’s allegiance is to shareholder profit, not your safety and well-being — Google+ is looking like it’ll fail to achieve lift-off.
Priit Kallas has noted that Google+ has dropped from nearly 3% of all google.com traffic at the beginning of August to 1.8% now.
The bad press over #nymwars continues, and the longer Google tries to tough it out, the worse it looks.
“People say a lot that, you know, Google isn’t good at customer service and Google isn’t good at social, and I’ve just come to believe that Google isn’t good at people,” said former Google developer Kirrily “Skud” Robert on the Patch Monday podcast.
So Google+ may fail. Which is fine, because that would leave Facebook to manage our online identity.