Google+, Google's latest attempt at developing a popular social networking service, has users in a tizzy because of its no-negotiation policy regarding what it takes to be fake profile names.
According to ZDNet, "a striking number of Google+ accounts" were deleted over the weekend because of questionable profile authenticity. Limor Fried, ZDNet notes, had her Google account revoked--but later restored--for using the pseudonym "Ladyada" on her profile. The site also notes that another suspended user, a former Google employee nonetheless, named Kirrily "Skud" Robert, was asked to scan a photo of her photo ID to prove it was indeed she. Even William Shatner got axed from Google+: the actor, who played Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, tweeted on July 18, "My Google+ account was flagged for violating standards. Saying hello to everyone apparently is against the rules maybe I should say goodbye?"
Getting cut from Google+ could mean losing more than just your social networking profile--you might even lose access to all of your Google accounts, including Gmail. As PCWorld reports, "to be clear, the stories we're hearing so far are of people being suddenly frozen out of EVERYTHING...Given who we early adopters are, even a few more days of this unreasonable behavior could abort the whole G+ effort".
To be fair, Google+ clearly states in its policy documents that members are prohibited from using professional titles, pseudonyms, and unusual characters in their name. "You can be certain you're connecting with the right person," Google says in defense of its stance on profiles. "Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life."
According to a conversation Robert Scoble said he had with Google Vice President of Social, Vic Gundotra, Gundotra acknowledged that Google had made some mistakes, though said Google is working to address how it requires users to use "common names," as well as how Google communicates with its users. Scoble wrote, "He says they have made some mistakes while doing the first pass at this and they are learning. He also says the team will change how they communicate with people. IE, let them know what they are doing wrong, etc."
Google seems to hope that using "common names" will create a closer-knit online community.
Nonetheless, it's understandable that some users are upset about having to show proof of identification--or having their accounts canceled outright without having the chance to petition the decision ahead of time. Signing up for a social network online shouldn't feel like going to the DMV to get your license renewed, and it's certainly not what people expect from an Internet company such as Google.
"Google Plus's names policy seems to have been scribbled on a napkin at the last minute, rushed into production while still half-baked, and confused even further by their haphazard, scattershot approach," Jon Evans wrote in a post on TechCrunch. " It's too bad that the service has sacrificed a pile of goodwill over the last week by repeatedly publicly shooting themselves in the foot."
Unless Google+ can find a kinder, more efficient and more accurate way of identifying people, then some users might just decide to abandon the service altogether--and not put in the effort required to return.
Learn more about the controversy in the video above.