Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Eric Schmidt describes Google+ as an "identity service" (plus.google.com)
88 points by jdp23 on Aug 27, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments

Losing hope in G+ very fast.

They're going to make the same mistakes that are killing Facebook. I'm also concerned about them selling data from G+, since Schmidt describes it as an identity service. It's a very evil concept.

It's also quite duplicitous. It was represented as a social networking service, not as an identity service. Moreover people assumed (yeah, I know) that since privacy control was Facebook's Achilles' heel, that Google would do better than that, and they seemed to be going one step forward with the Circles thing. Ever since then, it has been two steps back.

It's easy to say "Hey, if you want to be pseudonymous go elsewhere". I have no desire to be pseudonymous, but I certainly want to socialise with people who are. I can't be the only one.

HN good news: the field is still wide open for someone who wants to do it right.

Fundamentally, Facebook is an identity directory. The ability to easily transfer real world identities and relationships into the digital world is the big problem Facebook solves. It's one of those fundamental problems left unresolved by Internet protocols, similar to Google being able to solve search because the web has no implementation built in by design.

Facebook's communication features, the 'social networking', in itself isn't anything special.

From that perspective, Google+ becomes much clearer. Google are attempting to use Facebook's poor social networking features to elbow in on their identity directory.

> Fundamentally, Facebook is an identity directory. ...

> Facebook's communication features, the 'social networking', in itself isn't anything special.

Throw away your cynical world view for a second and just go to your Facebook feed and see how people are interacting there, having fun, supporting each other, spreading a little bit of love in form of "likes" (even if it's a bit silly) and come back and say it ain't anything special and it's just a solution to an identity directory problem. It's much more.

Facebook is the closest thing to a chat at a bar with your friends that internet has to offer. Certainly, there are better bars already out there, but FB is a bar that your friends are willing to come to. It's still early days of internet and our virtual existence, so FB ain't that colourful and deep as an evening at a local pub can be, but painting it just as a identity directory is a fundamental misunderstanding of social internet.

IRC feels much closer to a bar, if you want to use this metaphor. A bar does not record people's discussion and keep it forever for all to see..

Maybe, but most of my physical-life friends friends won't come to IRC. As I said, there might be better bars, but FB is a good enough to socialize with people you want to see. And IRC can be downright nasty for uninitiated, it's like this awesome watering hole on outskirts of the town that reveals it's beauty only after repeated use.

I would say Google Hangouts emulates chatting in a bar more than any Facebook feature does. Facebook, for me at least, has become the service that I use as a messaging tool, a constantly-updated "social newspaper", and an online rolodex.

I get the feeling that any attempt to do a better job in this regard will really have to base its income on something other than advertising. The temptation is way to great and the rules that allow great targeting are not alternate name friendly.

Google's shenanigans around G+ were the final straw for me. I'd been growing increasingly uneasy about the amount of personal information I'd placed in the hands one of company.

As it became clearer that G+ was an attempt to harvest still more monetizable information I decided to bow out. I've now unplugged myself entirely from all Google services and I don't intend to ever again rely so heavily on any one company.

What do you use for email? I can't think of a strong alternative to gmail.

Right now I'm using fastmail.fm and Mail.app. There are some features I miss from gmail but it's good enough and I can use my own TLD more easily.

I've never understood why people love Gmail so much. The differences between Gmail and other email platforms aren't features to me, they are problems.

The UI and the spam protection mostly.

What other email platforms are you referring to?

I don't think it's fair to say a lack of anonymity or other mistakes are killing Facebook. It very may well be true that mistakes killed the experience for you, but the truth is that most people are not overly concerned with the lack of privacy on their social networks.

I think people online often mistake a vocal minority pushing for privacy settings on this network as a reflection of the wishes of everyone. Truth be told, most people are indifferent to the matter.

Speaking for my own use-case, it's a mix of founder's statements (http://gawker.com/5636765/facebook-ceo-admits-to-calling-use...), investments by less-than-pristine Russian businessmen, my own various intersections with data mining, personal information aggregators, and legal processes, history of wide-spread domestic spying (watch "The Lives of Others" about the East German Stasi for a chilling view, understanding that this has and does happen in many lands).

The conceivable downsides of open participation in Facebook far outweigh the positives.

Add in social fatigue in the mass market as well, I suspect the trend has peaked.

It's not that they're indifferent to privacy in general. Rather, the system as reached a point where users are satisfied with the amount of control they've been given.

Specifically, they can render their profiles invisible to people they don't know, disengage from people they come to dislike, remove their names from pictures they don't want to be tagged in, and easily limit any personal details (except birthdays) that they don't like sharing.

For an enormous number of people, that's just fine.

'killing' Facebook? Facebook is hardly dying; rather the opposite.

I don't see how it is an "evil concept", I think what he means by identity service is a platform on which they can build social apps, it's same as social network.

And I'm quite annoyed by claims that associate a real identity requirement with selling data or ad targeting and such, they can target well enough using interests, not sure your name improves much on it.

Also instead of speculating read the service's privacy policy and be certain about it.

Its because the root motivation most people including myself see is that its about control. And things that try and control other things are evil.

Years ago Google was a disruption force towards existing controlling organisations. Now Google are trying to prevent disruptive technologies eroding their market share.

Hence they have joined the ranks of the old guard such as Microsoft, IBM, Apple etc... those desiring control, and hence arguably evil.

Just the nature of business, they don't really have a choice, and many respects are bound by law to become 'evil'.

You don't think it cheapens the world 'evil' to be using it like that?

I don't think control constitutes "profound immorality and wickedness" to be honest.

Well I haven't seen them sacrificing children to Baphomet or anything, but I do believe they are ethical and morally in the wrong camp and have been for a few years now.

They take money from one industry and use it to crush/undermine competitors in other industries. Hence making a situation where no one can compete with them. IMO abusing market position i.e. they use advertising money to drive technology business out of business

They have also perpetuated a belief that you shouldn't pay for anything on the internet. You know that would be fine if we lived in some Marxist utopia, but we don't. Things are expensive to make and produce and Google is making it harder and harder on a daily basis to get returns off products.

They did what was needed, improved the world, but those days are gone.

Well sure they make it harder for some to "get returns off products" but its not a bad thing. Google returns that value to users. Like Google Docs, its sucking the margins out of word processing like Microsoft Office and returning that consumer surplus back to consumers. Google making things free to use isn't bad for users its bad for competitors.

No one owes you the ability to extract consumer surplus.

The point is that Google pushing margins so low that returns are below production costs. And the way they manage to do that is by transferring funds to cover that loss. No one can compete with that unless they have a secondary market to channel funds as well.

You may be able to get some customers with higher quality goods, but generally people go for the cheapest option. So its good for customers, up until competition and innovation dry up. Which is the normal out come of this situation (and then prices start to climb).

The clincher in the whole evil'ness about this is Google has set it up so the only way to compete with them is to buy ads off them. Total abuse of there monopoly IMO.

Yeah I agree, the rough approximation is Wal-Mart selling loss leaders to drive other higher margin sales. In the case of Google, we see they "sell" Google Docs for free to create network effects (and to erode the lock in of Office) and to cross promote other Google products. This is controversial but is hardly new in any industry.

Yes I agree that after a company gains market power there is an incentive to raise prices but I dont think there are many (any?) examples of Google switching a free product to a paid one.

You missed the point, Google isn't evil. Yes they make it difficult to compete but thats what successful companies do. The difference is Google does it by making simple disruptive products and prices them at their marginal cost. Google isn't a monopoly by any definition. Google isnt the single seller in any of their markets, Google doesnt compete in a market with high barriers to entry and Google isnt a price maker. Users (advertisers and internet service consumers) can easily switch to competing products and avoid Google entirely.

Google is powerful yes, but they create value by helping their users keep their money. Google has never made any promise to anyone else other than their users.

> You don't think it cheapens the world 'evil' to be using it like that?

Google has used the world "evil" a lot, internally and externally, for years. Of course it isn't demonic or something, but it at least used to have meaning to that company in that they would never do things that they considered "evil" by their own standards.

I don't think forcing real names only is "evil," but it can lead towards some evil things.

Who has access to our information and communications is going to be a looming issue for a while. It was probably silly for us to think Google would act differently.

Barron Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton) got this right a long time ago: all power tends to corrupt, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

There's a modern corrolary: data corrupts, absolute data corrupts absolutely.

Google are well and truly headed down this path, it seems.

Speaking as a caucasian male with a name that's basically unique in the world (there is only one person who has my name but that might have been a typo in the article as every where else he uses a different last name), having my name improves their ad targeting considerably.

What does the fact you are a Caucasian male have to do with your point?

It's pointing out that it's not necessarily the socially marginalized , deviant, oppressed, or victimized who've an interest in anonymity or pseudonymity.

As with 0x44, I've a name that's to the best of my knowledge unique in all the world. That's helpful when I wish to be known. When not, not so much.

And I've accumulated a (thankfully short) list of people I don't much care to advertise my goings-on to.

Having a distinctive pseudonym for certain roles is useful. Having a non-distinctive pseudonym (or several) for others, likewise. Sometimes, on the Internet, you really do want to be a dog.

One of the complaints about Google's true-name policy is that it unfairly discriminates against people who don't have Western sounding names, or who aren't middle-class white guys. The reported retort is that they're not yet out of beta and shouldn't have to concern themselves with multi-culturalism, so people with "non-standard" or "unique" names should just use something else.

Be that as it may, do think the primary reason for insisting on real names is to target ads better? they first need a sufficient critical mass to implement that, their reasons are different, at least in this early stage.

I do think it's primarily about data. Maybe not specifically ad targeting, but about owning a relatively "clean" set of data that they can later exploit or sell in whatever way they prefer.

I'm kind of disappointed in their handling of it. I personally would like Google+ to succeed and at first glance it seems the real-name policy is not good for publicity, and subsequently not good for Google+'s growth.

The majority of people will use their real names anyway so I can't imagine why forcing it on everyone would help much of anything.

Can someone help me understand their rationale?

"Can someone help me understand their rationale?"

Google is ultimately trying to turn the web into their own app store so that anyone who wants to create, view, monetize, or share content has to do it using their proprietary services.

Do you honestly believe that?

Yes of course. Google sees themselves as being in the utility business, like the digital equivalent of an electric or water company. The whole company is basically a series of strategically placed loosely connected platforms that work in the background like infrastructure. Right now the Internet is still very young so they are essentially just building their moyo[1], expect the pieces to become more closely interconnected over the next ten years.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moyo_(Go)#Moyo+.28.E6.A8.A1.E6....

That's been the aim of virtually every large Technology presence for the past decade or more.

Microsoft spent a decade chasing the dream of taking a "vig" on every electronic transaction. At one time, Visa's CEO listed among its three largest competitive threats MasterCard, AmEx, and Microsoft (I guess it doesn't pay to Discover...).

Amazon and eBay are doing well on the same basis. Apple has its iTunes store. Google sits on the nexus with search, advertising, and a huge social / demographics database. Being able to siphon a few cents off of every online transaction, plus advertising, would be a tremendous market.

And having saturated the search and advertising markets, it's not as if Google has much growth through its traditional core functions.

Perhaps their rationale has something to do with a bigger plan of correlating G+ info with names of people they find online.

Exactly if you know who authored a peice of content then you can get a pretty good idea of how authoritative it may be. Google is pretty good about finding content but you want to know that the content is actually good (no content farms) if you know who wrote it then you can get a pretty good idea of how authoritative it may be.

This goes into some more detail about this: http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/google-plus-identity-and-seo

Facebook does suspend users for using their real name in the past. But how come it's not as known? Because they started pretty small by having a social website for Harvard, so early tech people who got suspended were quickly re-instated because they could go over and talk to Mark. Then Ivy League universities, just send Facebook an email. Then all universities, getting harder to help. Then everyone, replace support with a FAQ(?) that's quickly becoming out of date.

Early tech users of Google+ who get suspended, and have no support. What are they most likely to do; complain to other users who listen to early tech users.

Google+ is overall; a very bad execution that could do with a different strategy next time. In the meantime, Facebook is excited to adopt G+ features until G+ is aborted. Validated features are very awesome compared to untested ones.

The policy is temporary. They will roll out support for brand names and other potentially trademark-infringing names eventually. Just for the field trial, they want to make sure that everyone is using their real names because it's less hassle.

To downvoters: straight from the horse's mouth https://plus.google.com/u/0/110295984969329522620/posts/ExKJ... and http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2391461,00.asp and https://plus.google.com/105923173045049725307/posts/E3mVj6ns...

just like they would release the source for gingerbread "when it was ready" ? Not everyone is ready to take Google's word on things when they are clearly moving in the opposite direction.

You mean Honeycomb? Gingerbread source has been released.

Also, I'm pretty sure I heard that Honeycomb will be released with the release of ICS, so I think it's hard to say we shouldn't trust them. Sure, they should've released it like the other versions, but I can't say I care that deeply.

This doesn't wash. Google Profiles seemed to me to be an "identity service". This seems more likely an identity characteristics service for data mining info about people.

Google Profiles _is_ the "identity service" that has tendrils into more than just G+ (and the banstick was swinging long before G+ hit the public). Schmidt just didn't generalize his comments enough to point out that subtle but critical difference.

But I did: https://plus.google.com/103653740605668919281/posts/iHugVQvM...

A profile is too static to be a service, and yes the insistence is on the name in the profile.

If so, it is an identity service run by an advertising company.

Eric Schmidt says weird things (see http://dthin.gs/niXnvA). Here's what stood out to me in this talk (paraphrasing): "People don't have to use it if they don't want to."

You know you have a suspect product when that's the best defense you have for it. He wants people to use G+ yet he says that they don't have to. Saying stuff like that doesn't make current users comfortable or new users giddy to try it out.

This resonated with me too. "No one is forcing you to use it," - precisely, and therefore no one does! Just because there are a ton of nerds using the service right now, doesn't mean it's useful. My mom, who took a few years to get comfortable with email, she sure is not using it, but guess what, she's got Facebook! Google is disappointing :(

Bullshit. It's an ad-targeting service.

As far as I can see Google hasn't gone out of it's way to make + a compelling end-all identity integration platform that combines all of my other Google services, (I'm looking at you Reader. Where's my "share with circle" button, hmm?) so I'm not sure where they get this idea that it's going to be one for the web at large is coming from.

I think the phrase "they're going to build future products that leverage that information" gives away exactly who these future products are going to be designed and built for. They very carefully did not say "that are going to allow you to leverage this information."

Out of curiosity, how did the duplicate URL detector not catch that this was submitted four hours earlier?


The two URLs were not identical, as the earlier submitted had additional characters at the end (which appear to be a no-op in this case).

Yeah, I saw that, but thought that fragment IDs were ignore.

Oh well.

"He replied by saying that G+ was build primarily as an identity service"

Which is becoming more and more obvious.

However, it was sold to its users as a social networking service.

If you read the announcement identity is very important in every aspect that was announced: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/introducing-google-pr...

OK, but most people are never going to see that. I didn't.

Most people are going to wonder what google plus is, and end up here, where Google is actively telling potential users a particular story:


Nowhere in there does it say it's an identity service. The closest it comes is to talk about putting different people in different circles.

Nowhere does it say that services that worked perfectly well for you are at risk if you run afoul of the name issue.

Good point. It seems rather unsettling and dishonest if this was the plan all along. I guess in the coming months we'll see how the service evolves (and users react).

Context, please. I know it was an Q&A, hence there may not be a relation between what he said before and after answering this question. However the internet is very quick at taking one statement and turning it into something else.

Our right to anonymity trumps google's (or atone else's) right to "down vote" the "evil".

What's described is the archetype slippery slope. What's evil shifts and grows ever larger.

It's a fair point, nobody has to use it, that's true. But what I don't like is that there are exceptions like for "Madonna" and maybe others as well.

In other words, it's about making money by selling your data profile, and if you're not willing to help Google make money, they don't want you using their service. Pretty much the same outlook as Facebook, with minor variations in rhetoric.

I'll handle my own identity, thanks.

Once again I repeat: Google+ is dead.

It's over.

I wish I could agree with you but for so many people this isn't an issue. It will probably do fine regardless of how us geeks feel about it.

In my view the naming issue is just a distraction. The bigger problem is that Google+ was always living off nerd hype whereas facebook(its main competitor) didn't come into nerd limelight until several years after launch.

I really wasn't talking about any specific issue. Google+ is dead because it has little traction/engagement and most importantly, no focused plan of growth.

Are non-geeks on G+ now?

College students signed up, found nothing of interest and didn't bother to visit again. I'm fairly certain that G+ has failed, but I can't say I didn't expect it: Circles, its main selling point, is a gimmick that no normal user would bother to use after day 1, the UI is rather unexciting, etc. As far as I'm concerned, there's really no incentive to switch from Facebook for most people.

  College students signed up, found nothing of interest and didn't bother to visit again. 
Citation needed.


Not directly a citation, it is very hard to dig for a "bounce" rate or usage statistics of Google with the deluge of the real-name debate in content searching.

Well, found a bit more: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2098915/Google-Usage-Tr...

Conflicting reports: http://gigaom.com/2011/08/19/inactive-accounts-google-plus-i...

i use my real name a lot of places on the internet, and i would prefer to "sign in with G+" rather than use facebook (where I use my real name, like most of you..)

I prefer anonymity. Google knows too much about me already, I'd prefer they stop trying to make every fact about me known by the servers that serve me pages. I don't want every link on the internet an opportunity for the authorities to stop that click event.

I don't understand how anonymity would work with a social network.

I have a lot of people in my G+ circles. I've never met 99% of them before G+. As far as I'm concerned John Smith is as anonymous to me as Sp00n B4nder, neither one has any context for me except what I read from them.

And yet, I interact "socially" with them just fine, and I think of them as John Smith and Sp00n B4nder. It causes me zero problems.

Names in this context are just labels, and I don't care what the labels say, I just care what they point to.

That does pose some interesting questions.

Simply drawing social graphs by itself is hugely informative.

That said, a federated system in which I could present numerous identities of varying levels of persistence and/or repudiability could be of some interest.

As mentioned in jwz's post http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Papers makes a very interesting reference. You could kick around a very interesting model based on the method of publication. On the other hand, most people here really don't know who each other are except via the words written under a username.

Agreed. Just because I may be anonymous doesn't automatically mean I'm evil.

I thought Google+ was more like twitter. It seems Google+ envies facebook's "intimate friend groups" that cause people to upload personal photos and events. Alas they don't realize that people are under "social fatigue" right now after five years of frenzy. They are copying something that is already going out of fashion. Anyway it's crazy. I only registered to Google+ with my real name because i want to develop apps. Google+ is not my identity.

I'm not sure how much of that is improvisation on Eric's part or how much of his original meaning was preserved in the paraphrase, either way I doubt he is involved with the development of G+.

Not that there was much wrong with what was said, but if you're after some real insight here is a recent interview with Bradley Horowitz were he touches on psuedonyms, and basically says that the service will be more inclusive as it matures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5sRC67s9fg#t=26m25s

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact