Google+ was meant to be an identity service, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said this weekend, shedding some light on Google’s reasoning behind Google+’s controversial real-name policy.
Google’s requirement that members of its social layer, Google+, use only their real names has been a point of contention for several weeks — especially for people with uncommon names and people who prefer to use pseudonyms. Schmidt’s comments at the Edinburgh International TV Festival reveal a new perspective on Google+.
NPR’s Andy Carvin asked Schmidt how Google justifies its names policy when it could put people at risk.
“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,” Carvin wrote in a Google+ post. “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+.”
Paraphrasing Schmidt’s comments, Carvin wrote that the Google exec 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.”
Because Schmidt’s comments were made during a Q&A session, Carvin said he wasn’t able to ask any follow-up questions.
On Sunday, venture capitalist Fred Wilson followed up with his own thoughts on Schmidt’s “identity service” comments and the products that Google might build based on users’ information.
“It begs the question of whom Google built this service for? You or them,” Wilson wrote in a blog post. “And the answer to why you need to use your real name in the service is because they need you to.”
Since its launch in late June, Google+ has begun to spread its reach across the web. The +1 button now shares directly to Google+ and it’s added friend annotations; and Google+ posts now appear in Google search results. The pieces all fit together to provide Google with a broader picture of its users — not just on Google products anymore.
How could Google leverage users’ identity information for new products? Perhaps through more targeted advertising or personalized search, or maybe something completely different.
Wilson seems to imply that just knowing Google’s intentions is useful. “Well at least we got that out there and can deal with it,” he concluded