Last week Google announced that Google+ users would be able to create their own vanity URLs for the site; that was the good news. The bad news is that the company has just updated its Terms and Conditions with some quite worrying conditions.
Google+’s vanity URL terms, which went live last night, allow the company to do two things. Google has the right to remove your personal Google+ URL “for any reason, and without any notice” and may start charging you for the use of a custom URL. The company says that if it should introduce the requirement to pay for vanity URLs it will notify you before and you can decide if you want to pay up or revert back to your previous numerical address.
The new terms and conditions, as they appear on Google Privacy and Policy site are;
- We reserve the right to reclaim custom URLs or remove them for any reason, and without notice.
- Custom URLs are free for now, but we may start charging a fee for them. However, we will tell you before we start charging and give you the choice to stop participating first.
The new Terms and Conditions also include the standard play by our rules clause – “If you violate our policies or terms of service we may take a variety of actions, including suspending your access to Google+ and your use of custom URLs.”
Removing vanity URLs for some reasons, such as impersonation or vulgarity, is understandable if done right, but it does undermine the whole custom URL feature. Why should a user or brand spend a significant amount of effort promoting their G+ page on their site, emails, or headed paper when the URL can be taken away “without notice”?
What’s particularly interesting is that Google might start charging for specific or wholesale Google+ addresses. And it raises a few questions; is this how Google will start to monetise Google+ and will it charge the public or just brands (or is the clause there just to cover every eventuality)? We’ll have to wait to see how it evolves.
Google also hints that there may be more changes to come. The company says that the custom URL system in still under development and may change. So, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on this page.