Anonymity has long been a bastion of the Internet. For many it’s a plus, but others see it as a problem. Apparently Google+ is moving toward the latter position. They are insisting that users use their real names to get an account. This, Google believes, will prevent people from hijacking celebrity names or engaging in stalking. On the other hand, it could also prevent people from using the site to express their true selves and voice their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation.
In a blog post published yesterday, tech blogger Robert Scoble defended the decision, comparing the social networking site to a restaurant that, “doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.” He says, “that Google is on the right track here even though I feel they weren’t fair or smart in how they spun up these new rules.”
Not everyone agrees, however. One comment argued, “Google will be missing a huge opportunity to influence the world in a positive way and to ‘fight evil’, if they refuse to allow the 150,000,000 People in the Middle East join G+ simply because they don’t want to post their real name for their dictators to see.” Without mentioning him by name, he could easily have been referring to Wael Ghonim, the Google exec who played such a pivotal role in using social networking to help bring down the Egyptian regime.
Another complaint came from someone who claimed to be a longtime, “victim of domestic abuse by members of my own family.” That person noted that, “I cannot afford to jeopardize what remains of my physical health by risking being contacted or stalked by those who abused me in the past.”
Despite all this, Google VP Vic Gondotra believes that the current policy is the right one, even if it still needs to be tweaked. He admits that thousands of accounts have been frozen, but also says that, “they have made some mistakes while doing the first pass at this.” Those, he says, will soon be corrected.
Based on Gundotra’s statements it seems that regardless of what policy Google eventually chooses, Google+ will be, for better and for worse, a far less anonymous site than the internet has seen before. They will have to wait and see if it catches on.