Google says Google Profiles are restricted to real names only, as I blogged yesterday, but there's a quick way to see how incoherent this policy is: Use Google. As you can see above, searching for my name, "Wagner James Au", turns up considerably less hits on Google than my SL avatar, "Hamlet Au". I doubt I'm an isolated case: There are surely tens of millions of people whose account names on, say, Flickr, Yelp, Deviant Art, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Slashdot, Gawker, etc., turn up more on Google searches than their real names. Then there's all the tens of millions who regularly use avatar names associated with, say, World of Warcraft, Habbo Hotel, Gaia Online, the Steam network, Second Life, etc. etc. Not to mention all the many popular account names on YouTube, which is owned by Google itself.
Despite all this, Google Profiles' stated policy is that a Profile name be a real one, while also being "the name that you commonly go by in daily life". Why? Because real names help "in finding and creating a connection with the the right person online." As if all the daily activity online with all these online account names isn't significant. And even though Google's own search engine suggests otherwise.
And once again, this strongly suggests Google the corporation doesn't quite get social. Facebook succeeded to the extent it has by getting a very important part of social right: The desire of people who generally know each other in real life to easily connect online. But right now, Google is squandering a vast opportunity that Facebook has ignored: The desire of people whose daily activity centers around online community to easily connect in that context as well.