Google just amended its terms of service for Google + to allow them to use your name and photo for product endorsement. I’m going to ignore the whole associated privacy nightmare and focus on the bone-headed, bumbling, brain-dead business judgement.
Google + remains an (amorphous) also-ran. To ever had any hope of overtaking Facebook, it would seem logical to trade on what’s left of Google’s “don’t be evil” reputation as the kinder, gentler, less invasive form of social network. This it would be great positioning when the (inevitable) last-straw privacy overreach by Facebook finally starts a stampede out of there.
Admittedly, building a base among Facebook-avoiders wouldn’t do much near-term. Most of the un-Facebooked are elderly or poor. But I believe it also includes a lot of educated affluents (such as myself) who aren’t on Facebook (or lurk) specifically to protect their privacy and maintain some distance from the world. While it waited for Facebook to over-reach, Google could have hopefully built a decent advertising business focusing on the same affluent customer base targeted by Apple’s iPhone.
Instead, Google seems to be going for people who don’t care if their name and face are plastered all over the web without their permission. I would guess that there is a high crossover between this demographic and viewers of Duck Dynasty.
- There are a lot of them and Google likes a mass audience.
- But they don’t have much money and aren’t often (ahem) at the vanguard of social trends…
There are several huge problems with this move:
- People like me will work extra-hard to avoid signing up for Google +.
- It tarnishes Google’s reputation elsewhere. I read those (creepy) headlines and made a note to myself to start thinking more seriously about less-creepy alternatives to the Google services I do use. I haven’t walked away so far, but it ain’t helping.
- It inhibits “real” adoption of Google +. I would hazard that most of their “claimed” users have no idea they are actually “users” in the commonly accepted interpretation of the term. They are simply Gmail/etc. users who failed to uncheck the right boxes when activating an Android device or other Google service.
- It risks accelerating departures of the “real” users they do have. The people who are most likely to shut down their Google + accounts after their cousin sends a link with an ad featuring their name and face are exactly the people Google would theoretically want to attract. And also the sort of people who tell their friends to leave. And the sort of people who have multiple, actual-physical friends.
- It takes Google + on a do-not-pass-Go path to MySpace-ville. People forget that Facebook usurped MySpace largely through better uptime and MySpace’s self-inflicted spiral into creepy-downscale-lameness. Google + seems to be headed to creepy-downscale-lameness as a business strategy.
Maybe that should be my new gig? An online calendar and e-mail company called DBE – “Don’t Be Evil” – Web Services Google has done a great job of creating awareness, but seem to have lost interest in the phrase lately. It could be one of the great orphan brands of this century. And it doesn’t even look like they’ve trademarked it (shhhh…. don’t mention that to Google). Although the NSA would probably shut me down if it ever did get rolling.