Life after Google

There’s certainly lots of turmoil within Google right now, between the clever and non-evil people who made it successful, and the “Google Plus At Any Cost, we will own the world!” people; and there’s no telling how it’ll come out.

But at the moment the g+ fanatics seem to be winning. (Even this Official Google Announcement was apparently posted only on Google+, so I can’t give a real link to it; but hopefully the URL there will continue working and pointing to the right thing.)

Over the next week, we’ll be adding support for alternate names – be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script – alongside your common name.

If we flag the name you intend to use, you can provide us with information to help confirm your established identity. This might include:
– References to an established identity offline in print media, news articles, etc
– Scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license
– Proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following

We’ll review the information and typically get back to you within a few days.

(Gotta love that “typically”.)

And for anyone that’s nervous about sending their driver’s license to strangers, we are assured on mashable that

Google will destroy all documentation you send them once the account verification process is complete.

Everyone who feels they need more quasi-governmental agencies in their lives, demanding proof of identity and scans of your driver’s license, and assuring you that their random employees can be trusted with your information, raise your hand…

Didn’t think so.

There are at the same time reports that in order to sign up for any Google service these days, you have to also sign up for Google+ (including, presumably, telling Google your real name, and being prepared to offer official documentation for any nicknames you might want to use); and Google’s search results are starting to return Google Plus pages even when they are by no measure the best hits, which is incredibly stupid and the techs are already telling us how to get around it.

So there are clearly two things going on:

  • The Google Plus people at Google either don’t understand Internet culture, or think that they can change it (with themselves as the central storehouse and universally trusted driving engine of that change), and
  • Someone with power at Google thinks that (unlike Wave and Buzz, which were allowed to die when it turned out no one really wanted to use them) Google Plus is so important that all of Google’s other services can be taxed to supported it, by forcing anyone wanting to sign up for those other services to also sign up for Google Plus (and, if they don’t want to sign up for Google Plus, to go off to Yahoo or someone instead), and even corrupting search, which is Google’s base offering and frankly the only thing (well, maybe webmail) that we really want from them.

Of course Google may still save itself from these people; it’s far too early to give up.

But what if they don’t? Where will our bellweathers go to escape the stupidity, leading most of us along with them? Facebook for social stuff presumably, because that’s where everyone is anyway. But who will we use for search, and for webmail? And whatever else Google does that I’ve forgotten to mention?

Maybe the best thing would be for us to fragment again, and have there be more than one Big Obvious Search Provider, and more than one Big Obvious Webmail Provider, and even more than one Big Obvious Facebook-thing, and so on. If nothing else, Google’s failure would be a lesson on the dangers of bigness and obviousness, and the arrogance that tends to come with that.

On the other hand, Google’s implosion would open a very big opportunity for someone else to come in and take its place, by doing the good stuff without the dumb mistakes. Not sure who that would be; opinions welcome. What’s Yahoo doing these days? I tend to think of them as an old company that fell into the “web portal” rathole and never really returned, but maybe there’s potential there.

I really ought to make some bold prediction here, so that if Google does implode and my prediction turns out to be right, I can prove how clever and prescient I am. :) But for the moment I will just cross my fingers and hope that someone smart and powerful over there decides that shilling Google Plus isn’t worth corrupting all of the company’s other offerings, and that Google goes back to being the good guys. ’cause I am always an optimist!

(I will get back to the Combat System Scripting eventually, I promise! Or at least I have a good-faith intention to. But you know… shiny things!)

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So is Google evil after all?

Or, more specifically, are they evil because they are (or may be) deleting (or forbidding, or something) “google plus” accounts that are opened using SL avatar names, or usenet or forum pseudonyms, or basically anything else that fails some kind of naive “real name” sniff-test?

I dunno. Maybe. Or probably. Or maybe not. Probably not, really. But is this guy a jerk?

If you see a person with an obviously fake name, go to their profile and find the “Report Profile” link in the bottom of the left column. Report it as a “Fake Profile”. We want Google+ to be place for real people to connect with other real people.

There has certainly been something of a flurry of concern about it. I sent him a little note after reading some of the furor:

I think you really meant something like “if you see a ‘person’ that is obviously a company or a spammer, go to their…”. Real people use all sorts of names, “Fake” and otherwise. It’s the fake people you want to keep out, not the real people with “fake” names…

No reply yet, but he has now come back with one of those “wait, wait, what I meant was…” posts (which I can’t figure out how to link directly to; scroll down on the one above):

Holy cow. I was offline most of yesterday and it looks like I started a firestorm by accident.

Kevin McCurley’s comment sums up the spirit of my post better than I did: “In the meantime please interpret this post in the loosest possible sense – only flag things that are clearly not representations of a real person. We’re not out to ostracize people or enforce unreasonable conditions. Businesses and organizations will have their own profiles in the future”

The policy page (http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271) leaves some room for interpretation and says: “For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life”

It doesn’t say anything about your legal name.

I’d better not say anything more about this since: a) I’m an engineer and b) there are plenty of edge cases that I’m sure are legitimate and not explicitly covered in the ToS.

… and (c) he’d like to remain employed if that is still possible at this point.

Which does more or less correspond to what I said. But still, “commonly go by in daily life” certainly does leave some (“some”) room for interpretation.

And really this whole thing gives me a creepy feeling. Why is Google policing the appropriateness of names and the “realness” of accounts, anyway? (As opposed to, say, the spamminess or otherwise of behavior.) The full quote from that policy page is:

Google services support three different types of use when it comes to your identity: unidentified, pseudonymous, identified. Google Profiles is a product that works best in the identified state. This way you can be certain you’re connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out. For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life.

This is actually pretty stupid. (Botgirl’s autotuned version is at least amusing!) How do they, in the 21st century Internet, know how their just-launched product “works best”? And why do they feel it necessary to forbid other ways of using it? The fact that someone is using the name “Fred Muggs” rather than “Teh Fredster!!” doesn’t mean anyone “can be certain you’re connecting with the right person”, or that anyone “will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they’re checking out”; names are not magic.

And really, “checking out”? That phrase plus the fact that initially google plus required not only a “real” first and last name, but also a (publicly viewable) gender, makes me wonder…

Is Google Plus really intended as a dating service?

It would explain alot, anyway. Maybe they will notice that they didn’t really plan to take over the world with a dating service, allow pseudonyms as long as they aren’t being used to spam or defraud, and this will all blow over. I continue to think, at least in my crotchety moments, that maybe all of the boring people will vanish into Facebook and Google Plus, and the rest of us can go back to using the rest of the Internet. The end of the Endless September? If Google could give us that, I think I’d forgive them for a certain amount of arguable low-grade evil… :)

(Thanks to the NY Daily News for the nice little evil-Google graphic, heh heh.)

Dale is…

Woot memes!

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Yum, cookies! … hic … :)