You would think that a company worth half a trillion dollars would take their reputation a little more seriously. Apparently Google is unaware that its latest “social network” offering Google Plus has become the most hated social network ever. Today admitting that you have a Google Plus account is as bad as admitting you had an aol.com account back in the 90’s. It has become the symbol of the brazen corporatization of the social internet. Negative press is coming from major publications and from across the blogosphere. What is amazing to see is that Google’s reaction to all this negative press is to stick to their guns and make matters worse.
The principle reason for all this negativity can be explained with one made up word: Nymwars.
Google Plus started on June 23rd, and was by invitation only. Apparently someone at Google saw The Social Network and decided to follow the creed that “exclusivity creates demand”, so they limited the number of people that could join Google Plus, and somehow ended up with 25 Million within a month. That to me sounded fishy right away.
Then came the Nymwars, Google started booting out people with funny names on suspicion that they were “fake”. Google demands that all users of Google Plus use their real legal names or go somewhere else. Being someone who goes by four different names (my legal name being my least used) this debate over “What is a real name?” has been very surreal one. To me, Google is acting like a narrow minded bigot who thinks all sex is hetero and in the missionary position. There are lots of different kinds of names. I am someone who never goes by my legal name, and it is extremely helpful, because anyone who calls or writes to me using my real legal name is instantly someone who I don’t want to deal with. Friends, family, and even all my financials are all under another name. At work I go by a nickname, a variation of my legal name, that everyone uses for brevity. Finally everyone online knows me as Ariane, or ArianeB. I cannot join Google Plus and stay within the rules they prescribe, so I don’t.
People that follow the rules, with foreign names, single word names, and words in their names not normally associated with being names are being unfairly targeted by the Google gestapo demanding, “Papers Please!” in order to get back in. Their new “Verified” tags are down right embarrassing, and just making the situation worse. If it was just their stupid social network, nobody would give a damn, but Google is threatening people who don’t comply with termination of all Google based services, some of which people need for their employment. Such tactics are creating a small but growing movement away from all things Google.
Why is Google doing it? Why are they threatening their customers on some made up issue? It is because they think they can get rich off of it. Fake names are not real customers, according to Google. They want your information, so they can sell it to advertisers. They are like those ugly naked creatures from Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, who profit off people’s gullability that Google is not evil.
Here is the bottom line. I work in the tech industry, with lots and lots of fellow computer geeks who are always on the cutting edge of internet culture. When Google released “exclusive” invitations to Plus, most of the company had invites within days. Just two months later, and nobody at work is talking about Google Plus anymore. I can’t find anyone who uses their account, and those of us who do not have accounts, don’t really want them. It is has been shunned as “uncool” by the techie masses.
Google Plus is another flash in the pan idea, from the makers of Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google Orkut, and Google Lively. I’ll admit that Google Plus is built on superior technology and tools than Facebook, and that is what drove initial interest, but cool tech only goes so far. Reputation is everything, and the quicker Google figures that out the quicker they will dump Google Plus, Google Profiles, and everything else associated with this marketing disaster.