Product & Startup Builder

Real Names getting Real Attention

Added on by Chris Saad.

There's a lot of fury on the web right now about 'Real Names'. FB is trying to use it as a unique feature of their comments system claiming it reduces trolling and low value comments. Of course that isn't really true. For one, any commenting system could force FB login. Two, users will troll with or without their name attached and, worse yet, many legitimate users won't participate for any number of reasons if they can't use a pseudonym. There are plenty of better ways to increase quality in your comments including participation from the content creators, game mechanics, community moderation and more.

The real debate, however, is about G+ trying to copy FB's stance on Real Names. They are insisting all user accounts use them and are actively shutting down accounts that violate the policy. They are being so heavy handed about that even people who ARE using their real name are getting notices of violation - most notable Violet Blue.

I'm not really an expert on pseudonyms, shared contexts and anonymity so I'm going to stay out of this debate.

The real question for me, however, is what is Google's strategic business reason for this policy. There must be a long term plan/reason for it otherwise they wouldn't be insisting so hard.

My assumption is that it's related to their intention to become a canonical people directory and identity provider on the internet to compete with FB in this space.

FB, after all, does not just get it's power from news feeds and photo apps - it gets it from the deep roots it has laid down into the DNA of the internet as the provider of 1st class identity infrastructure and identity information.

In this sense, FB's social contract has served them very well, and Google's attempt to copy it is a hint that they understand FB is not just a .com feature set, but a powerful identity utility. They must (and in some cases seem to be) understand that strategy and it's aggressiveness if they are to properly compete with the monopoly. My only hope, however, is that they are coming up with their own inspired counter strategy rather than just copying the moves they see on the surface - because that's doomed to fail.