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Guest post: How Google+’s Integration Of Blogger Attempts To Legitimize The Web

Guest post author:

Francis Santos is a writer and blogger for Benchmark Email and can be found on Twitter.

A few months ago, internet users suddenly found a big black bar across their browser windows whenever they accessed Google’s services. Standing out in stark contrast to the gargantuan corporation’s usual light colored palette, this bar became “Google Control Central.” This was the first step in a comprehensive effort to harmonize all of Google’s far-flung serviceswhich range from search and translation to email and social networking.

Blogger users should now identify themselves
This harmonization recently extended to the untold millions of users on Google’s über-popular Blogger site. A pop-up field on the Blogger In Draft Dashboard holds out the promise of accessing future Google+ social media features. However, the blog writer has to switch out their current Blogger site profile with a Google+ one. From then on, any social connections would have their blogs appear in Google search results along with an annotation that the writer shared it.

With this announcement came a footnote that this new integration facility would not be available to any writer who is currently using a pseudonym. This policy provoked considerable oppositionfrom a wide range of users, not just on the Blogger site but also on Google+ itself.

Google+ is integrating with Blogger but not all users are thrilled.

Many hesitate to use their real names
Google seemed to forget that their users are located all over the world, including the 42 nations Freedom House claims have repressive governments. Therefore it could be understood that Cuban, Iranian, or Tibetian citizens wishing to even mildly criticize their leaders might be hesitant in linking their real name to their comments.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything states that that “we are Google’s product, not its customers”. That was clearly evident when Google+ first launched and the admins went into “seek and destroy” mode. They erased thousands of profiles because they suspected that the name on the profile was not the user’s “legal name.”

Bloggers have received death threats
For many of the users of the Blogger service the real name policy also presented a clear obstacle. Bloggers don’t have to be in Third World countries to receive credible death threats, as some in North America and Europe have. There are a number of reasons why an online writer might want to remain anonymous in perpetuity. They might have been blogging for years under a pseudonym and could confuse their readers when they found that their habitual read of TheCreepingGecko’s blogs were now being written by Mr. Bartholomew Featherstonehaugh. Or perhaps they had made some deprecatory remarks about clients or co-workers that they did not want to be personally identified with.

Google changed its policy to allow nicknames
The real name debacle is a primary reason why Google users everywhere welcomed the official announcement that the policy had suddenly changed. Google will soon allow users to maintain their anonymity and chosen public identity on Google+ and Blogger. However this is not the only worry Google users have, as participating in the services offered by the web juggernaut can lead to some very unpleasant results.

Google shuts down all access to violating users
An underage user in the Netherlands signed up for a Google+ account. As soon as the Googleplex discovered that the boy was three years younger than the minimum allowed, they not only just deleted his new social network account but all of his Google services. In a single action, Google shut down his access to email, documents, maps, and everything else they supply.

Of course Google has the right to enforce its policies, which include prohibitions against “copyright infringement” and “publishing of someone’s private or personal information”. The worrisome question is whether any Google adult user could see years of their personal emails and precious work documents vanish because they violated the terms in any way. Perhaps they did something as innocent as posting a photo they copied from a copyrighted site, or mentioning in a post that “BTW, if you need Steve’s cell number, it’s…”

Impossible to change your primary email address
Google+ users also found a troublesome, albeit less critical quirk in their new accounts. Whatever email account they used to sign up for the service remains the primary one… with no way to change it. Alternate additional addresses can be added but the primary remains immutable for all eternity. You might have signed up for Google+ with your work email and changed jobs; got married and are no longer using your maiden name; or used one of your websites’ domain names which you’ve now closed down. If so, your “no longer applicable” primary email account will continue to be associated with all your Google services. And there’s nothing you can do about that as it’s against Google’s terms to open another account.

Google’s global search market share is 85%.
The original name for Google was BackRub.
W3 Markup Validation shows that Google’s home page has 37 errors and 3 warnings.
The Googleville Data Center uses up as much electricity as all of Tacoma, Washington.
The current market capitalization of Google is more than 12 times greater than the CBS TV network.
Google Co-Founders’ Larry Page & Sergey Brin have a net worth of $16.7 billion each.
$16.7 billion can buy you 68,940 2011 Ferrari 458 Spiders, or 282,840 houses in Kansas.
Excite CEO George Bell was offered Google for $750,000 in 1999. He turned it down.

Publicly identifying yourself can be a boon
To be fair, there are many advantages to write on Blogger under your own real name, as Google continues to be the online leader that Microsoft could have been if their internet policy hadn’t run off the rails when we were still using 2400 baud modems. Blogger is a major platform which can allow the savvy writer both an effective platform and a wide-reaching pulpit. It is far easier to identify with Mr. Featherstonehaugh than to TheCreepingGecko. Google is essentially correct in stating that the change could boost blog readership and help readers gain a greater insight into the personality and viewpoint of the writer.

Google certified as a U.S. government identity agency

Google has recently had their user credential policies certified so that they meet U.S. federal privacy and security requirements. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace now includes Google as an accredited identity agency, which makes its services suitable for a number of federal applications.

The slow death of the anonymous web
The move to the use of real identities on the Wild Wild Web is meeting with begrudging approval by most of its users. However, many are recognizing that a network directly responsible for pumping trillions of dollars a year into the world economy needs to grow out of its “sophomoric prankster” stage and into the light of greater legitimacy and verifiability.Google is leading the way to this future of near-universal identifiability where the internet will be less anonymous and by extension, perhaps tamer.

What is your opinion on the legitimization of the web? Please join the debate by entering your comments in the box below.

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