Google Wants to Own Your Identity

It makes a ton of business sense for them, but what does it mean for you?

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Eric Schmidt didn't surprise many journalists with his prepared remarks at Friday's MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. But Schmidt certainly turned some bloggers heads with what he said off-the-cuff about Google's future plans for their new social network. NPR's Andy Carvin asked Schmidt about Google+'s real name policy and reported back (via Google+ appropriately) that Schmidt "replied by saying that G+ was built primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they're going to build future products that leverage that information."

"Primarily" is the keyword to Schmidt's answer. "It begs the question of whom Google built this service for? You or them," wonders veteran venture capitalist Fred Wilson on his blog. "And the answer to why you need to use your real name in the service is because they need you to."

Schmidt's latest clarification adds some clarity to the on-going debate over why Google has been so insistent on the real name requirement for Google+. Everybody has his own theory about what Google wants to do in the identity sphere, but the most obvious theory is probably the best one. There's a ton of money to be made. The growth of Facebook from a dorm room experiment into a business worth dozens of billions of dollars can serve as proof for this. That said, Facebook also wants to own identity online, but as Schmidt hints at in his key note address, Google is uniquely positioned to layer itself on top of  other media industries. The search giant's history of organizing information and building experiences online could carry over rather powerfully to TV:

Online, through a combination of algorithms and editorial nudges, suggestions could be individually crafted to suit your interests and needs. The more you watch and share, the more chances the system has to learn, and the better its predictions get. Taken to the ultimate, it would be like the perfect TV channel: always exciting, always relevant--sometimes serendipitous--always worth your time.

As expected, Schmidt's speech to television executives inevitably sounds like a sales pitch for why the TV industry should become better friends with the internet. Read: Google.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.