Google is struggling to make its mark in the social media landscape and define its niche at the same time. What it wants is to be something different from those that have come before it. What it DOESN’T want is to be so different people don’t know what it is. This is exactly what some people have said about Google Wave which ultimately failed to attract enough interest to be relevant.
So what is Google+? That’s a good question.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called it an “identity service” but what that means exactly, as far as users are concerned, is still a little unclear.
We already know Google+ is against anonymity and that users are all but forced to use their real names. Is that what defines it as an “identity service?”
Google+ is also all about helping people make better connections and keep certain groups of the people they are connected with separate from each other. That is the popularity of their “Circles.” Facebook has recently boosted its privacy settings and they have always insisted on real names, but this has done little to dethrone Google+ as the new King of Identity.
Anyway, all this talk of who is real and who is not real on social media is moot. Just a simple Facebook search will reveal just how many people you know are using that service. Social media is relevant. It is NOW and it is REAL.
Where Google+ will fit in and what title it will ultimately wear, well, that’s just a lot of pomp and circumstance.
“Regarding people who are concerned about their safety, [Schmidt] said G+ is completely optional,” Carvin wrote of Schmidts’ comments. “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.”
Schmidt has a history of pooh-poohing privacy, famously telling CNBC’s Mario Bartiromo in 2009, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
Soon after that comment, Google blackballed CNET because it published personal information about Schmidt’s private life found via Google. Since then, it seems Schmidt hasn’t much changed. According to Carvin, Schmidt also said “the Internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward.”
This “we mostly want your real name so everyone will be polite on the Internet and not because we want to monetize your precious, precious identity,” is Facebook’s (paraphrased) spin as well.
“I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away,” Randi Zuckerberg said at a Marie Claire social media panel discussion in July. Cyberbullying is the bastard child of anonymity, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, who until recently also served as the social network’s marketing director. “People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors,” she said.
Your own anecdotal experience reading sometimes-vile words in the Facbook comment sections on sites such as msnbc.com should tell you this spin is a simplification of a complex problem. If not, how about some science?
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