I know all of you have been wondering when I'm going to write about Google+, Google's newest attempt at a Facebook-killer. Well, I've been waiting to receive an invitation to the beta, but I've also been reading preliminary reports from beta testers.
The timing of the rollout of the new social network happened at a time when a lot of Facebook users were having their accounts suspended for using pseudonyms. Facebook has a history of periodically going through its ranks and deleting a bunch of accounts with obvious "fake" names. This is very frustrating for people who use online "handles," for privacy and security reasons. It's mostly for show, however, because with over 600 million users, Facebook's enforcement of any policy to use "real" names can only be spotty at best. But during this last wave of banned Facebook users, Google opened up its new social network to beta testing, so many of the Facebook rejects flocked to Google+.
Many assumed that because they already had Google accounts (Gmail, etc.), they would automatically be welcomed with open arms at Google. Well, as it turns out, in a move being dubbed as #plusgate by Twitter users, Google is not only banning users with pseudonyms from the new social network, but it is then freezing their Gmail accounts, effetively locking them out of Google altogether. Huh? Andrew Bunner, of Google is even encouraging Google+ users to report anyone they suspect of using a "fake name," explaining he only wants real people on the network (apparently, he does not consider those who use avatars to protect their privacy and security to be "real people").
The outrage over not being able to sign up for (and thus keep up with) one more social network seems a little overblown to me, but I do not think this is a smart move on Google's part. Yes, it is a lot harder to harvest people's personal data and sell it to advertisers and marketers if they refuse to give you their full legals names, but people who use their real names for much of anything but online profile management and job hunting tend to skew young (read: lack of actual funds). Obviously, there are exceptions, but most have nothing to lose, so they don't yet understand the value of protecting their privacy and securing their personal data online. The people who actually have bank accounts and businesses and families and jobs to protect are a little more stingy with their personal data. Just sayin'.
Oh, well. Google is a good search engine and up until now has been a pretty good email client, but their other projects have not gone so well. It's starting to look like Google+ is simply going to be another Google Wave or Google Buzz (never heard of those? Don't worry - most people haven't.)
Meanwhile, if you have anything stored in your Gmail account of value, you might consider backing it up before you jump into Google+.