Ever since Google+ became required to comment on YouTube videos, there’s been a huge wave of backlash spreading across the Internet. The backlash, however, has slowly died down. Users are beginning to accept the fact that Google may not be rolling back the changes regardless of how much people hate them. But is it really as bad as you think?
Depending on who you ask, Google is either a saint company that’s revolutionizing the world towards prosperity and interconnection, or a demon company that’s led by a mixed abomination of Satan, Hitler, and the Illuminati all wrapped up in one. It’s even spawned some articles demanding that Google+ be added to everything, which many of you didn’t agree with.
Personally, I walk the middle of the road. Some have quit using Google completely, but not me. I think there are good and bad aspects to the spreading integration of Google+, so let’s try to look at it rationally, and from both sides.
Google+ Sign-In: The Good
One account to rule them all. I remember when OpenID first debuted, everyone was gushing over the implications. What is OpenID? Long story short, OpenID lets you use a single account to log into any website that’s configured to allow OpenID users. These days, we have Facebook and Twitter logins to accomplish pretty much the same thing.
Google+ being integrated into multiple services is the next step in the evolution of online convenience. OpenID made it so that users didn’t have to juggle dozens of accounts for websites, forums, social media sites, etc. Google+ is expanding on that idea so users don’t need to juggle so many different web services. In a culture of fast technology and busy schedules, this is arguably a good thing. People love convenience.
But wait, how does Google+ Sign In differ from the previous Google OpenID Sign In that already existed? One new benefit is that it allows users to automatically install apps from the web on Android without having to visit the Play Store. For the most part, however, it’s only a benefit for Google+ users since it allows everything to be stored under the Google+ account, making it easy to share media on Google’s social network.
It makes people more accountable. One of the big myths about the Internet is that you can be anonymous. The truth is this: at this current time, there’s no real way to be anonymous online. Everything you do can be traced back to you — the only difference is how difficult it would be to execute the trace.
People are more likely to be vitriolic when they can hide behind anonymity. The fact that Google+ is connected to multiple services raises the stakes, which means people need to be more careful about what they say, otherwise, it may come back and bite them later.
For example, if being a jerk on YouTube can impact your social life on Google+, you’re are going to think twice before writing a caustic comment. I’ve personally noticed an improvement in YouTube comment quality since the integration — maybe people are nicer, maybe the trolls just left. Either would be a win in my book.
Google can improve its services. The Internet realm is intensely cynical when it comes to anything related to Big Brother — and rightly so. However, in the end, Google is a business and they need users if they want to keep making a profit. This means Google needs to keep improving their offerings.
Integration of Google+ is one way that Google can collect user metrics, which allows them to study the pitfalls and bottlenecks in their products for fixing. Despite the ethical ambiguity that surrounds the company, no one can deny that Google has some of the best web products in the world.
Not only that, but their advancements have rippled out and improved the Internet as a whole. Other companies have learned from Google and consequently put out awesome products that we can enjoy. None of this would have been possible without reliable user metrics.
Google+ Sign-In: The Bad
Reduced sense of privacy. Remember, Internet anonymity is a myth. However, even in light of that truth, people enjoy and prefer the illusion of being anonymous. This illusion has mostly been dashed ever since the NSA spying revelations, which is probably why the uproar over Google+ integration is so furious.
Feelings are important. If I don’t feel safe or secure using a particular service, then I’ll stop using it. If I feel like Google is peering into every corner of my life and leaving me no space to breathe, I’ll stop using it. Even if true anonymity can’t be achieved, the smoke and mirrors of false privacy are still important for the user experience.
Not everyone wants to use everything. The forced integration of Google+ across multiple services is great for convenience, but only if you were already using them in the first place. For a lot of people, only one or two of the services are relevant, whether YouTube, Calendar, Drive, Groups, etc.
If you didn’t already have a Google+ account, you may not want to make one just to comment on YouTube. The same goes for any other Google product. Sometimes products should stay separated for the good of everyone involved. I certainly wouldn’t want my driver’s license to be the sole identifier for everything I own and do. It just wouldn’t make sense.
Plus, forced Google+ integration just reeks of a desperate attempt to get people to use a service that Google failed to market. Desperation does not reflect well on Google+, Google!
Google has too much power. “Diversify your portfolio” is one of the most important pieces of advice for playing the stock market. If you invest all of your money in solar technology and the entire market crashes, you lose all of it. If you instead split it up between solar technology, soft drink beverages, and toilet paper, you’d only lose a portion of your investments.
Well, what happens when everything is connected to Google+ and Google somehow goes under? What if the Google servers are disabled for a few weeks and none of their services are accessible? Or a more realistic scenario: what if you decide that you don’t want to support Google anymore and you want to move to other services?
Worst case, you lose everything.
In some way, this is an incentive for users to keep using Google even when they don’t want to support Google. It’s just too inconvenient to cut ties. And when all of your eggs are in Google’s basket, they have the power to bend you to their will. If you think about it, it’s almost like a mild form of blackmail. And the payment is a Google+ account.
What do you think about the forced integration of Google+ spreading to other products? How far does Google have to go before it breaks your camel’s back? Share with us in the comments!