As we await for Google+ to figure out however it wants to handle verified accounts, it’s worth reflecting how Google already has a verification system in place that’s been lost and how Twitter’s supposedly “closed” program continues on in stealth mode. Why can’t either of these companies get it right? And why can’t Facebook even try?
Twitter & Verification
Let’s start with Twitter. Cast your mind back to June 2009. After growing complaints that it was hard to know who was real, including from celebrities tired of being impersonated, Twitter launched Verified Accounts.
These accounts all carry a blue checkmark symbol, a sign that Twitter vouches that the person or company using them really has been verified to be that person. You’ll see it to the right of William Shatner’s name, below:
Want to be verified? Good luck with that. The general public is out of luck. As ClickZ noted last October, Twitter quietly discontinued its public program. The page at Twitter about Verified Accounts says:
What kinds of accounts get verified?
Verification is used to establish authenticity for accounts who deal with identity confusion regularly on Twitter. Verified Accounts must be public and actively tweeting.
How do I get my account verified?
This program is currently closed to the public. This means we are not able to accept public requests for verification.
Why is the Beta verification program currently closed?
Twitter’s public beta version of account verification is no longer available. After a long period of manual testing, we’ve closed public applications. We have removed our public-facing verification request form. In the meantime, we’re still verifying some trusted sources, such as our advertisers and partners.
In short, if you’re a celebrity, and Twitter somehow takes notice, you get verified. Alternatively, if you’re a Twitter advertiser or partner, you get verified. Everyone else, stuff it.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Twitter could easily allow for everyone to be verified in a variety of ways. For one, it could use a system similar to how Google allows site owners to verify their accounts for Google Webmaster Central. Put some code on your site, and if Twitter sees it, then the Twitter account could be verified to that site.
That’s an incredibly easy way for anyone with a public-facing site to link the two. Indeed, Twitter’s own advice for those trying to show their accounts on Twitter are “real” is to do something similar, to link from their official sites to their Twitter accounts.
That’s good advice, but how about a little give back, Twitter? If people are linking over, why not come up with some type of “Site Verified” moniker?
Google Profiles & Verification
Twitter could also borrow another idea from Google, that of verified Google Profiles. Google allowed for profiles to have verified email addresses or “names” in a variety of ways, such as getting a PIN through your cell phone or using a credit card. This explains more:
I used to have both of these listed on my Google Profile, as this screenshot from April 2009 shows:
Google+ Broke Verification; Facebook Does Nothing
That was lost in the wake of Google+. Google, in its rush to “field trial” its invite-only Facebook rival, broke the verification of who knows how many people, regardless of whether they were in Google+ or not.
Meanwhile, we now have the irony that more celebrities are joining Google+, along with fake celebrities that are turning up, and Google’s apparently still figuring out how to handle them. Poor old William Shatner joined, only to have his profile closed temporarily.
Over at CNN, Mark Milian details this as part of good article that looks at some ways Google’s trying to resurrect verification. He also covers that when it comes to Facebook, there’s no real attempt at verification at all.
Get It Together, Social Networks!
The mess with Google+ is pretty absurd. It’s not 2007. It’s 2011, and launching a new social network without verification of celebrities, not to mention allowing for “brand pages,” simply doesn’t wash — field trial or not.
Then again, if Facebook doesn’t have it, perhaps that’s too harsh. But really, Facebook should gain some verification. I’d like to see that happen.
As for Google, it ought to fix what it broke with the old verification system, which would give mere mortals the ability to verify themselves, if they want. If Google wants to accelerate the process for the celebs coming online, that’s great — that’s useful to help avoid confusion. But the existing system they have and broke could be used to do that.
As for Twitter, same thing. Keep on verifying those celebrities that are coming online. We need that type of clarity. But tear down that verification wall and allow anyone an easy way to verify themselves, if they so choose.