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Why Real Names aren’t a big deal for Google anymore – Ankit Jain, Quettra

ankit jainLast Tuesday, Google announced that they will now allow users to sign up for a new account with arbitrary names/pseudonames. This is a 180 degree turn from their policy of three years. I hope the 5 reasons listed below clarify why this makes absolutely no difference in 2014:

1. Most users have already given their real name to Google: Over the last few years, Google has pushed users to give their real names through products like Google+, YouTube, Google Play, Google Wallet, GMail, etc. Most users who use Google products have already provided Google with their names, birthdays and genders.

2. Users have already added others to their circles based on real names: Most users have created circles and added at least the most important people in their lives to them. Our social graphs change over time but the most important people, especially the personal influencers, don’t change that often. Google has a good enough snapshot of this and can drive value creation and personalization based on this already entered data.

3. Social personalization is already in place: Comments and Personalized on properties such as YouTube and Google Play are ordered based on those in your circles (mostly with real names at this point). As users interact with Google products that have been personalized, they will see relevant social content ordered by those they have explicitly told Google they care about as well as others that Google believes they might be interested in.

4. Social Cues already in place: If you go to a mixer an everyone is wearing a name tag, you’re going to want to put a name tag on too. Similarly, if most everyone on Google properties is already using their real name, most new people will follow suit. Google has ensured a good start to getting this cycle started.

5. Trolls / Spammers who create fake accounts don’t have much to gain by using pseudonames: As Google products become personalized, trolls/spammers will just not get the eyeballs needed to make such efforts valuable. In order for trolls/spammers to gain eyeballs, they will need to get genuine users to add them to their circles. Between the decline of circling and Google’s anti-spam efforts, this will be increasingly difficult and expensive. Such techniques will always be a cat and mouse chase but Google has used Steps 1-3 above to get a significant lead in this chase.

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Google has a history of creating products a certain way to create a corpus of extremely valuable data and then shuttering the product/service as they use that data to make massive progress in a given field. The best known example of this is 1-800-GOOG-411*. Just like that experiment, the Google+ and real name based circles gave Google a treasure of useful data which will drive many of their products for years to come regardless of a small percentage of users using pseudonames from now on.

Google is taking the moral high ground while achieving all of its internal goals. Big kudos to them for achieving this ‘press win’. And it’s a win for the end user as well, which as Larry always says should continue to be the focus of the company.

*1-800-GOOG-411 had been assisting people with obtaining phone numbers since 2007. On November 12, 2010, GOOG-411 shut down its service. While Google did not provide an official reason for the shut down, many believe that Google had simply gathered enough voice samples for its research purposes. Many interviews like this one discuss Google’s motivations behind this service.


Ankit Jain is currently the CEO & Founder of Quettra, Inc, a stealth mobile intelligence. Most recently, he was the Head of Search & Discovery for Google Play. He joined Google via the acq­-hiring of the Cuil team where he helped build several parts of a web search engine from scratch. Ankit is very involved with the entrepreneurial community via the Startup Leadership Program. Ankit has a BS EECS and MS CS from UC Berkeley as well as a Certificate in Management of Technology from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Follow him at http://twitter.com/jain_ankit.

Crossposted with permission from Ankit Jain’s Medium.

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