Tech columnist Jesse Hirsh spoke with the CBC's Matt Galloway about how membership on social networking site Google Plus is now essentially mandatory if you want to use other Google services like Gmail or YouTube. You can listen to the full audio interview by clicking the link on this page or read the edited, abridged transcript below.
1. What is Google doing to boost their social network?
It's a way of using their many services to have them all tie back to Google Plus. It's an attempt to keep up with Facebook but also an acknowledgment on how the web is changing.
2. Is Google Plus successful?
Depends who you ask. Google says it's successful. They tout numbers in the hundreds of millions but whether those people know they have a Google Plus account is part of the issue. If you factor in Youtube and Gmail and assume they are all Google Plus users then, yeah, the service is doing quite well.
3. What if you don't want to be on Google + plus but want to use the services?
Not much. You're out of luck. It gets into the issue of informed consent, whether people recognize they are on Google Plus. For example, I wanted to post a comment on a video on Youtube the other day. A popup came up and said 'instead of doing it under Openflows, do it under Jesse Hirsh. That makes sense but really you've just created a Google Plus account. It's subtle and effective but people are up-in-arms a few weeks later saying 'I didn't know I set up that account.'
4. What about Facebook ... how are they trying to improve their services?
Facebook is introducing their own free calling and free emails services as a pilot project in Canada. I expect they will also introduce video calling so they can be a one-stop shop. The kitchen sink will soon be a part of Facebook as well.
5. Will having a social network account soon become mandatory then?
If you have a certain internet savvyness you might be able to live without an individual account but often you are being sucked in through your profession. In the end, I suspect we'll be authenticating ourselves online with either Facebook or Google and our whole history will be tied to that identity.
6. Is that necessarily a bad thing?
It depends. Under the right circumstances, no. It might be a bad thing because of that issue of informed consent. If everyone agreed to it consciously then it might not be bad but I don't think everyone is.
Jesse Hirsh is the CBC's technology columnist, a broadcaster, and internet evangelist. He also owns a company that specializes in free software for open source intelligence. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.