Mathew Ingram writes:
Ever since Google launched its new Google+ social network, we and others have pointed out that the search giant clearly has more in mind than just providing a nice place for people to share photos of their pets. For one thing, Google needs to tap into the “social signals” that people provide through networks such as Facebook so it can improve its search results. There’s a larger motive, too: As Chairman and former Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt admitted during an interview in Edinburgh over the weekend, Google is taking a hard line on the real-name issue because it sees Google+ as an “identity service” or platform on which it can build other products.
Schmidt’s comments came during an interview with Andy Carvin, the National Public Radio digital editor who has become a one-man newswire during the Arab Spring revolutions. Carvin asked the Google chairman about the company’s reasoning for pushing its real-name policies on Google+—a policy that many have criticized (including us) because it excludes potentially valuable viewpoints that might be expressed by political dissidents and others who prefer to remain anonymous. In effect, Schmidt said Google isn’t interested in changing its policies to accommodate those kinds of users: If people want to remain anonymous, he said, then they shouldn’t use Google+.
It was the former Google CEO’s remarks about the rationale for this policy that were most interesting: He didn’t just say—as Vic Gundotra, the Google executive in charge of the new social network has—that having real names maintains a certain tone of behavior that is preferable to anonymous forums (an argument that online-community pioneer Derek Powazek has also made). According to Carvin, Schmidt said the reason Google needs users with real names is that the company sees Google+ as the core of an identity platform it is building that can be used for other things:
He (Eric) replied by saying that G+ was built primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally it depends on people using their real names if they’re going to build future products that leverage that information.
As Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson noted in a blog post in response to Schmidt’s comments, this is an admission by the company that it wants to be an identity gatekeeper.