Thanks for nothing, jerkface

Thanks for nothing, jerkface

Summary: OPINION: One month after creator and leader of Google+, Vic Gundotra, quietly quit, Google chief Sergey Brin told a conference audience last week that involvement in Google+ was "a mistake." He made the exact opposite statement in 2011.

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TOPICS: Google
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Sergey Brin Google Plus

In case you missed it, Google CEO Sergey Brin publicly admitted last week that Google+ was "a mistake" for him — one month after the man he hired to run the social network, Vic Gundotra, left the company without explanation.

Brin told the audience at boutique Bay Area tech conference Recode that he was "kind of a weirdo" and that, "it was probably a mistake for me to be working on anything tangentially related to social to begin with."

It runs in stark contrast to when Brin told the world how he came to love Google+, and admitted to taking a direct hand in its design at the October 2011 Web 2.0 conference.

Seated onstage next to Brin, Vic Gundotra told the audience that its "design owes a lot to Brin's vision."

Brin's statement comes only one month after Gundotra quietly quit the company, and without explanation.

Google+ broke our trust

Thanks to one crystalline moment of Google+, it became clear that a company we trusted couldn't be trusted at all.

The Google+ so-called "real name" policy can best be described as a confusing, velvet-glove-cast-in-iron policy where users of Google+ are required to use their birth or government ID names — and when flagged, must prove it, and submit official documentation as proof.

Google began its "real name" enforcement with mass Google+ account suspensions and deletions shortly after Google+ launched in July 2011. The whole mess is called Nymwars.

Ex-Google employees were deleted. Writers, musicians, programmers and more were deleted. Editing your name raised suspicion and still risks getting you flagged.

"Ex-Google employees were deleted. Writers, musicians, programmers and more were deleted. Editing your name raised suspicion and still risks getting you flagged."

Google+ remained silent while Nymwars raged through the headlines — until it told press it would allow "alternate names" — which was incorrectly reported (at first) as if Google had begin to allow pseudonyms. This was shown to be untrue when Google told ZDNet that "nicknames" had to be proven with your real name and government ID.

In the background, Google+ began "unifying" people's identities (combining its background matching of users names and profiles) in Android address books.

For LGBT, political dissidents, activists and at-risk people everywhere, Google's little Google+ project became a loaded gun pointed right at anyone whose privacy is what keeps them alive.

Users found out in January 2014 when Google+ force-integrated chat and SMS into "hangouts" in the Android 4.4 "KitKat" update.

At-risk users were disproportionately affected, most especially transgender people who needed to keep their identities separate for personal safety and employment reasons.

One woman was outed to a co-worker when she texted him, and risked losing her employment.

Google's response was that her outing was "user error" — Google blamed her, the user for not understanding the new, confusing integration.

After Sorensen's nightmare hit the press, more stories emerged from transpeople who had been outed at the hand of Google+, spanning all the way back to the beginning of 2011's Nymwars.

Google+'s appalling, absolute inhuman detachment was probably deemed a necessary price tag attached to the shiny prize of product saturation.

In case you're wondering, the "Hangout" feature was Sergey Brin's idea. Gundotra had told 2011's Web 2.0 audience, "He was intimately behind pushing us to make Hangout happen."

Google+ embodied the Internet's cardinal sin: It broke everything it touched

YouTube got hosed by Google+.

On November 6 2013, Google changed its YouTube property to only allow comments from Google+ accounts, thus de-anonymizing commenters, as the principal element of its site-wide comments overhaul.

Google's war on anonymity imploded with this move to force Google+ — and its unwanted "real name" policy — onto YouTube users. The outraged YouTube community's anti-Google+ petition currently has over 239,000 signatures. The co-founder of YouTube slammed Google for forcing users to use Google+.

Google's problems with Google+ identity control malfeasance became pop culture fodder.

Android apps got similarly screwed by Google+ in 2012 when Google changed its Play Store to only allow comments from Google+ accounts, and app reviews suffered.

Google Search is no longer the clean, high-performance tool we once relied on and admired — now it's a fetid stew of Google+-littered, screwed up mystery-mechanics, running under the misguided assumption that anyone and everyone only wants more of their own location, their connections, Google's clumsily guessed interests, and Google+ favoritism in the results served back to them.

Now we're filled with a sense of dread with every Google change, every Google product release reminding us that we're being tracked and recorded, and we're held captive by "one account, all of Google" — all with Google+ at its infected core.

Well, Brin said he wanted to "change the world"

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt told National Public Radio digital editor Andy Carvin in 2011 that if people don't want to use their real names, then they shouldn't use Google+. He explained that Google should be considered "an identity service" with Google+ as the foundation across all its products.

I don't want to think that controlling our own identities doesn't matter to Google; or it's as if to Google we are the faulty parts of its machine.

Or that we are just Google+ with a body vaguely attached. Or to Google, the problems are our own faults, and any calls for respect or privacy in a painful world are just annoying to Google, which has better things to do, like terrify us with the privacy nightmare of Google Glass and making bulk data consolidators' jobs of cataloging our personally identifying information easier.

Google is not just a company. It maintains infrastructure for what have become vital services: it is a utility. And Google+ had made it so we can't refuse, or opt-out of, Google.

This is something you'll only start to see if you try to avoid having a Google+ profile.

Many people now use Google+ without even knowing it, through its non-consensual cross-posting on YouTube, Android photo integration, the takeover of Google Talk, and the infinite ways in which people every day make Google+ profiles without realizing it. Want to make a comment on a Google product (even if you don't know it's a Google product)? Google makes you a Google+ profile.

We originally chose to use Google's services because out of all the fly-by-night startups, companies and social networks, Google was one whose infrastructure we always felt we could really rely on (even if we don't always agree with their politics, or policies).

The madness of Google+'s pathos to saturate and force people to be units of data subsumed the originators and handmaidens of its critical failures — which, now that Google and Google+ are one, have become Google's legacy.

With Google+, it became clear that we were all little more than webs of flesh spun over packages of saleable data.

If only someone could have stepped in and course-corrected Google+.

Oh, right. Someone could have.

The same someone that just told the world, "heh, oops" and walked away to go retreat back into himself, and play with his cars.

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Topic: Google

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62 comments
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  • Seriously ... what did you expect??

    In 2011 he was a Google employee. Did you actually expect him to say that the products made by his company suks balls?

    You were the one who ignore the VERY VISIBLE SIGNS about Google+ and decided to ignore them. Don't blame the guy for doing the job he was getting paid for.
    wackoae
    • Are you kidding me?

      Nope, Google started going downhill when Schmidt returned and they're mostly products I no longer even touch.
      slickjim
    • protect the scroogle hive

      you too will get scroogled.
      hoppmang
    • Google is for muppets

      And the muppets are the product
      hubivedder
    • Stop blaming users

      Google screwed over their users. Not everyone has the magic crystal ball that you do and can see years in advance what Google will do.

      Most people just don't understand what the tech does and the negative impacts are until it is to late.


      Remember when Google used to be the company whose mantra was "do no evil"....

      Yeah, it was a long time ago.
      Emacho
      • What "magic crystal ball" ??

        The TOC was a signal brighter than standing in front of the light beam at a light house.

        Not defending Google's for anything. But people who lack common sense completely ignored everything and are now complaining about how they got screwed ... when they bended-over and pulled down their pants on their own.
        wackoae
        • Exactly.

          That's why this works the way it does. Almost everyone just agrees to the terms, with no knowledge of what they agreed to. Whether through ignorance, stupidity, or they just don't care doesn't matter. They agree. This allows Google and most everyone that provides a service on the internet to include crap in the TOS that no one would EVER agree to if they bothered to read it.

          Google has become evil, but they aren't any more evil than anyone else. They're just everywhere.There is no larger presence on the internet than Google. Everyone in the world passes through a Google server at some point every day, whether or not they realize it. Google is the definition of "systemic evil". But it's not like Amazon wouldn't sell your soul, too. It's pretty easy to avoid Amazon, though. No one avoids Google. Not completely.

          In a different world, I'd like to see people in Washington talking about privacy. Not necessarily new laws, but different policy and regulation. Everyone has a right to at least a LITTLE privacy and still be able use the web. In this world, there is nobody in Washington that could even comprehend the basics of this issue, much less how much of an impact an almost total lack of privacy and anonymity have on society. So there's no help there.

          And... There's the NSA.
          pishaw
          • Re: 'Avoiding' evil entities.

            It is very hard to avoid Amazon if you count using services hosted on their virtual servers (for example, S3 instances) because most major internet sites use these to scale quickly/easily. Of course, it is equally hard to avoid using the DNS server that Google provides, 8.8.8.8.

            Now, both of these can be avoided with enough knowledge, patience, and investment of energy (and probably money). But nobody automatically starts out with these things. So as a group of concerned users of the Internet, we should work to publicise when any entity with a large amount of power or control over the network is doing something to restrict the rights of the user (privacy is a right, regardless of whether corporations, individuals, and governments respect that right), and institute replacements that put control of a user's presence on the network as much into the hands of that user as possible.

            I also would argue that the statement "Google has become evil, but they aren't any more evil than anyone else" is not really that useful - a person without power cannot abuse it. Google has great power, and has to some extent abused it - so in absolute negative impact on the world, they are quite damaging. It does not require a particular moral framework to claim good or evil, if we want to use those terms (It refers of course to Google's motto, which is still used by the company). Of course, they have also brought agency to many people with their services, but that does not detract from their wrongs. We should learn from both sides of their experience and find another way.
            Arlo James Barnes
  • What went wrong?

    Google started off a great company.........then they easily monetized it by including non-intrusive advertising. But then it started going pear shaped. First they refined their ad auction and then started location based ads and allowed companies to bid for key words that gamed the search mechanism. They quickly realised that the more they know about you the more they could charge for ads. Under Eric Schmidt and the bean counters they are now perpetually trying to refine the way they capture your personal information so they can increase profits. It appears that they are now only focused on continuing the increase of profits rather than just be content with a sustainable amount of cash and providing the cleanest and impartial services....too bad...the mighty always fail when they lose focus....look at MS!
    global.philosopher
    • Satan was once an agel too you know...

      'nuff said.
      MrElectrifyer
      • Satan was NEVER an angel

        Because angels have never existed .... and neither did Satan.
        wackoae
        • Silly wackaoe

          Regardless of whether you believe in the Bible or not, it is a work of literature. Therefore, the character exists in literature, and his comparison stands.

          But, in your rush to declare your supposed intellectual superiority for not sharing a belief, you seem to have missed this. Don't make a bad name for atheists. Don't be as intolerant as religious fundamentalists are.
          Ndiaz.fuentes
          • Well said!

            I thought MrElectrifyer comment was brilliant and I'm an atheist. Stop taking yourself too seriously (-;
            May the Farce be with you... always!

            Malcolm
            ursulus
    • "the mighty always fail when they lose focus....look at MS!"

      MSFT Stock
      June 10, 2009 - $23.70
      June 7, 2014 - $41.40

      Explain the term "falling" with that in mind.
      TechNickle
      • I think Milton said...

        "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven"?
        Arlo James Barnes
    • Sheryl sandbergs fault

      Well said
      brianss1
    • Uhh, no.

      As a shareholder, I'd be pretty pissed if Google become "content with a sustainable amount of cash", just so the clowns on ZDNet forums could get their feature requests handled.
      gordongecko407
  • I proudly put trash details in Google services

    The solution is simple, use junk names in all Google services. Never use Gmail besides for receiving alerts from google services (Google code, blogs, YouTube, etc.). Use competing services wherever available.

    Unfortunately, this spyware company is now "worlds most valued brand"...oh well.
    MrElectrifyer
    • even easier...

      Just don't use google services. YouTube can be used without logging in as can search and beyond that the use services from other companies.

      I still have a Gmail account from when I had android but these days that is redirected to my outlook account and i don't use a single google product except the occasional YouTube video. So I'm happy for google to do all the data collection it wants - it ain't getting any of mine.
      aesonaus
  • Hear, Hear!

    Great article, Violet Blue. I'd not have used the title you did, but the rest of the article was apt. Would have instead titled it something like 'Pot Kettle Black' or 'Reversal' or 'Too little too late'.

    For that's what it is. Google Plus has ruined Google's reputation, just wait and see. It's ruined Youtube, that's for sure. Hitlerian in the extreme, is Google's policy, and no one can trust it now. Before 11/6/11 (the last day I'd deign to post videos on Youtube), it was progressively dysfunctional and annoying to use Youtube, because Google kept on making stupid changes in the interface, much as MSFT has done with Windows. But its 'real name' policy is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and its dysfunctional and hitlerian Google Plus is a bankruptcy waiting to happen.

    Give it five years. If they don't vastly fix the problem prontito, there will be no more Google. No one wants that to heppen.
    brainout