July 25, 2011 at 2:49 PM ET
Google+ is staking a lot of its success on avoiding the things that annoy Facebook users, such as privacy and ... privacy. There is one thing Google+ did straight out of the gate however, which sounds a lot like Facebook: Unceremoniously and with no warning, shutting down user accounts like it's running out of Internet.
On Google's blog and various statements, Google+ reps have kinda/sorta apologized. But you know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Captain James T. Kirk, commander of both the USS Enterprise and USS Enterprise-A,was the first to famously go — even though his Google+ profile appeared under his actual name, William Shatner.
"My Google+ account was flagged for violating standards. Saying hello to everyone apparently is against the rules maybe I should say goodbye?" Shatner posted on Twitter.
He was quickly reinstated, telling his microblogging followers,“I am back plusers! I still do not know what happened but I will refrain from saying hello again for a while just in case. My best, Bill.”
A 10-year-old boy in the Netherlands signed up for Google+ — thus violating its age limit of 13 — and according to his dad, Google not only shut down the kid's account, but also locked down his long-standing Gmail, threatening to delete it all if he didn't provide proof of age.
Heartless as this sounds — the Dad's blog about it is called "Google made my son cry" — Google's dumbest move, as far as its own success, was tossing off profiles of the brands and companies that flocked to the brand new social network soon after it launched.
It seems there are at least three things going on here:
1. In the case of Bill Shatner, and a striking number of other accounts with suspect names, it could be an overzealous attempt to weed out those who violate the Google+ policy which, just like Facebook, does not allow users to have profiles with fake names. Why? Because the aggregated information from that profile you built for your dog or Edgar Allen Poe Jr. is meaningless to advertisers.
Social networks generally say they want your real name so everyone can better connect, and sunshine and butterflies, and blah blah blah. All this is meaningless, however, to stalking victims, dissidents under totalitarian regimes who use social networks to organize so-called "Internet revolutions," and of course, Christ Our Father.
As you'll see, there are still obvious pseudonyms floating around on Google+. But as anyone who is still active on the Facebook profile they built for their dog can tell you, they can't get 'em all!
2. In the case of the crying kid in the Netherlands, Google+ has the age 13-or-older restriction, as do Facebook and many other social kinds of websites to comply with the Children's Online Protection Act, which requires websites to take a lot more safety precautions when allowing kids younger than 13 to visit the site.
Just so we're clear, the government doesn't make Google+ or Facebook or others ban kids 13 years or younger — the social networks would have to be extra careful monitoring how personal information was collected and what content made it on to the sites if they did.
3. In the case of brands and businesses getting the boot — perhaps including William Shatner, and also Alyssa Milano, who are celebrity brands — Google straight up told businesses and brands not sign up for Google+ because it was fixin' to launch a special version for them, and offered a beta version for businesses that wanted to try it out.
Due to an overwhelming demand Google for some reason didn't anticipate (despite the success of Facebook Pages), it shut down the test project. Also, it started axing businesses who set up Google+ profiles — from Search Engine Land and "Sesame Street" to Mashable and Ford, as well as our own TODAY Show and BreakingNews.
"There may be a tiny handful of business profiles that will remain in the meantime solely for the purpose of testing how businesses interact with consumers," Google+ manager Christian Oestlein said in a recent blog post.
Not all are mollified, however. "Frankly, the entire thing is a mess," Search Engine Land editor (and early Google+ adopter) Danny Sullivan wrote in an open letter to Google. "Google Profiles allowed for non-human use long before Google+ existed. Search Engine Land, for example, had a profile with Google Buzz (and still does) before this change happened."
"This is my fault," Vic Gundotra, Google's VP of social, said in commenting on Sullivan's post. "I prioritized other things first. So when Danny says Google screwed up, he is right. We prioritized making a great experience for people first. None of our internal models showed this level of growth. We were caught flat-footed. This growth is very enticing for people/brands who crave an audience. We are doing all we can to accelerate the work to properly handle this case. Please give us just a little more time."
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