When it comes to Google+, Google has been known for their strict guidelines and restrictions. From inception, Google+ has required that users use their real name. In fact, those that chose to use a fake name were banned from Google+. This included Star Trek's William Shatner who apparently was banned for "violating Google+ standards".
Google's Vic Gundotra provided some insight into this decision when he said, "[Google] is trying to make sure a positive tone gets set here. Like when a restaurant doesn't allow people who aren't wearing shirts to enter. The risk is users to create a disruptive, offensive, or confusing experience by using things like upside-down characters, obviously fake names, like ‘god' or worse."
Google+ did revise its policy in 2012 to start allowing pseudonyms, but the PR damage had already been done. After all, it was hardly a secret that Google+ was really designed to be more of an identity network than a social network.
Now Google+ is singing a different tune. This week they announced a change in their restrictions. According to Google the previous restrictions "helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names".
The tone of Google's announcement was very apologetic acknowledging that "you've been calling for this change for a while" and "we know our names policy has been unclear". They even went so far as to apologize to consumers and assure them that they are taking steps towards making Google+ a place that people want to visit.
Sincere Apology or Tactical Move?
A recent infographic from Leverage New Age Media dives into some of the details surrounding the most popular social networks. Google+ comes in at a cool second with 540 million active users, while Facebook is leading the pack with more than 1 billion active users.
Additionally, the research found that not as many brands are active on Google+, leaving the door open for social networks like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to come in and swoop up potential advertisers.
It is undeniable that Google+ has stepped up their game over the past couple years, but there is still much left to be desired. Personally, I wonder if Google+'s most recent announcement is more of a media ploy to try and draw attention to their social network, than it is to really service the community.
Or perhaps they've realized that they're cutting out a significant amount of potential revenue by implementing a series of elitist restrictions. What are your thoughts?