Google has just announced on its Google+ Project help section that all private profiles will be deleted come July 31. The only thing required for a public profile is name and gender — all other information can be managed or simply not entered.
Similar to Facebook, Google will let you omit your profile from searches and control who gets to see what information on a group level. But if you’re using Google+, you have a public profile — it’s not like Facebook’s ghost accounts, which allow users to be invisible á la Harvey to the world.
The move illustrates Google’s larger vision for Google+ as more than a social network — it’s an online reputation management tool for the masses. In the help article, the company suggests that Google profiles serve as an “online identity manager” and nearly all are currently public.
“We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used,” the company writes. “Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.”
It’s a recognition that pretty much everyone has an online footprint now, and Google+ is not only about facilitating connections but also controlling your cyber image.
This development is curious in the wake of the MySpace sale — one of the joys and frustrations of the once mighty social network was creating a digital identity that typically bore no relation to your physical one. Shy bookworm types could sell themselves as sexy exhibitionists. Profiles tended to represent whom users wanted to be or fantasized about being rather than their actual personalities (which is why is what unwise to try to go out with someone you met on MySpace).
You can still do that on Facebook, but as the information on the Internet continues to resemble reality a little more every day (Or is it simply becoming reality? I’m trapped in “The Matrix”!), your Google profile will look a lot more like you.
Google has always been serious and efficient, loyally fetching the information you need on the web in a matter of seconds, helpfully managing your email, giving you directions, filtering the news (in a good way…), assisting you with shopping, etc., etc., etc. Thus, its version of a social network is just as serious and efficient.
Someone commented on another story, “Why did they call it Google+?” Because that’s exactly what it is — Google hasn’t created a new social network but reorganized, unified (Blogger and Picasa? Never heard of them — I only know Google Blogs and Google Photos) and socialized its core components. Exactly what Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt said it was going to do last summer — it’s the Google suite enhanced (I hear “Google on steroids” was not a popular tagline).
So there’s plenty of room for both Facebook and Google+ in the social networking world — while Facebook is undeniably useful, it’s the fun side of social networking vs. Google’s all-business approach. There will be overlap (with 45,000 people including him in their circles, ”Mark Zuckerberg” is the most followed person on Google+) and on the marketing front, it will be fascinating to see what shakes out – certain verticals will likely find better ROI on Google while others succeed on Facebook. Anyone care to make predictions?
But because Google is the “serious” social system, and managing your online identity is increasingly important, there’s really no need for private profiles. To some extent, Google is encouraging us — prodding us even — to step forth and manage our online identities. Courage, Internet warrior!
After years of ping-ponging around various industry publications, Gavin Dunaway finagled his way into the senior editor slot at Adotas, a depot for interactive advertising news and commentary. When not penning snarky articles about social media and behavioral targeting, the Washington, D.C. native and George Mason University graduate enjoys playing electric guitar so loud that the walls shake.
This piece originally appeared at Adotas July 6, 2011. It has been reprinted with permission.