Google+, while still young, can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As time goes on, it will no doubt serve many more purposes. We still have brand pages to look forward to after all, and countless forthcoming integrations.
At its heart, however, Google+ is about identity. That’s straight from former CEO and current Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
NPR reporter Andy Carvin posted on Google+ about a Q&A he participated in with Schmidt:
He replied by saying that G+ was build 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. Unfortunately, the way the Q&A was conducted, I wasn’t in a position to ask him a followup on this particular point.
He 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.
Schmidt’s words and the philosophy is quite interesting considering a Public Policy Blog post from the company back in February. In that, Google Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering, Alma Whitten wrote, “Attribution can be very important, but pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures — for good reason. When it comes to Google services, we support three types of use: unidentified, pseudonymous and identified. And each mode has its own particular user benefits.”
“Equally as important as giving users the freedom to be who they want to be is ensuring they know exactly what mode they’re in when using Google’s services,” Whitten said.
The post discussed an update to Google’s top navigation bar indicating what account they were signed into. Still, Google did say, “While some of our products will be better suited to just one or two of those modes, depending on what they’re designed to do, we believe all three modes have a home at Google.”
CNN has shared a video interview with Schmidt talking about identity and how the company should have gone social sooner:
The focus on identity makes a great deal of sense, as social networks have essentially become who we are on the web – see Facebook log-in an sites all over the web. It makes even more sense when you consider Google’s grand plans in payments with the inevitable integration of Google+ and Google Wallet.