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Posted by on Sep 18, 2011 in Science & Technology | 1 comment

Google+ As An Identity Service Is Bait-and-Switch

In a classic “bait and switch” customers are enticed (“baited”) to purchase a specific product but when they try to buy it they discover that it is “out of stock” and the salesperson begins the up-sell (“switch”). But bait-and-switch as a technique is not such a narrowly-defined behavior. Some people apply the term to product advertising with extensive “fine print” (conditions). TechCrunch calls “free” iPhone apps that require subscriptions to have content (think news apps) a form of bait-and-switch.

How goes Google+ fit into this model?

Google promoted Google+ as a “social network” with very easy, granular control over how you could share information — more like “real life” than Facebook, for example.

Nothing, nothing, in the roll-out hinted that a “government names” “identity service” platform was the fundamental purpose of the service. [1]

Furthermore, the history of Google as a company providing “free” (advertising-supported) services is marked by an understanding of the need and desire for pseudonymity. For example, in April 2009, Google shut down YouTube upload and commenting functionality in South Korea because of a law that required South Koreans to use their “real names” when posting information online (including comments). [2]

Rachel Whetstone, VP of global communications and public affairs at Google, said in a statement that the company decided to scale back YouTube Korea’s functionality because “freedom of expression is the most important value to uphold on the Internet,” according to Hankyoreh’s translation of the statement, which was posted in Korean.

We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to Internet users while observing this country’s law because the law does not fall in line with Google’s principles,” Whetstone said.

That was 2009. Key words …. “*freedom of expression*” and “*Google’s principles*.” The former hasn’t changed but the later have executed a hard U-turn.

I’m not going to pretend to try to understand what happened in the intervening two years. But it’s clear to me that something has changed, and I believe the change has everything to do with money However, as +Mathew Ingram pointed out so eloquently last week, “real names” are not a necessary condition for making money on the Internet.

But there is another financial link to Google+: the privileging of search results for people with Google Profiles. [Example: .”] This part of the “bait” (reasons to use the service) relates directly to money if you are someone selling professional services. But what if the name people know you by — the name that carries your professional reputation — isn’t on your government-issued ID? Then you appear to be S.O.L.

People are beginning to leave. From +Jillian C. York :

Some are going to — some back to Facebook.

I feel very let down by Google’s behavior. I had hoped to escape the heavy-handedness that is Facebook, but that is not to be.

I’ll have a presence here; I have to, professionally. But the joy is gone.

That’s what bait-and-switch does: it kills product enjoyment, tarnishes the name of the company at the center of the bait-and-switch, and leads to buyer’s remorse.

Is it too late for redemption?


[1] “identity service” info from +Andy Carvin :

[2] and – tip +Jon Evans

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