Google+ drops real name policy. What do you think? [POLL]

Filed Under: Featured, Google, Privacy

Google+ logoFollowing years of criticism, Google announced on Tuesday that it is waving goodbye to the real names policy it employed to block the use of pseudonyms on its Google+ social network.

When the service began in June 2011 the policy effectively gave users the choice of either using their real names or bogging off to Facebook or Twitter.

We noted at the time how we felt the company was missing the opportunity to bridge the gap between privacy and openness, and hoped that it would re-evaluate its policy in time.

Then Google, in a bid to combat YouTube spam and other nastiness, asked for people to sync their YouTube account to their Google+ account meaning that every time they commented on a YouTube video, their real name would appear.

Now, however, all the previous rules and restrictions have been tossed aside in favour of an anything-goes approach to identity.

In a Google+ posting yesterday the company announced that it was completely abandoning the naming restrictions and even went as far as to admit that the old policy may have actually been a bit rubbish after all:

When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names. 

Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use. 

We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be. Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.

Good news for anyone wanting to use Google+ without divulging their real names, but what about the problems the initial policy was designed to address?

When commenter Chris Chase asked whether the change will see YouTube comments revert to their previous state, which he colourfully described as "being a steaming pile of monkey sh*t," he received a reply from Google+ chief architect Yonatan Zunger. He said Google had benefitted from two years of research that had given it a "much better understanding of what turned [YouTube comments] into the wretched hive of scum and villainy we all know."

Zunger went on to explain that changing the way in which top comments were rated, from a system based upon any kind of reaction, to one which only rewarded positive interactions, should go some way to limiting the issue of trolling.

In response to the suggestion that trolling would now be much easier on Google+ as well, Zunger replied:

Oh, don't worry. One of the reasons this is safe to launch is that our troll-smashing department has gotten very good at their jobs.

Whether Google’s U-turn will actually encourage more users to try its social network remains to be seen, but at least now you can be whoever you want when you give it a try.

Let us know what you think in our poll below.

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14 Responses to Google+ drops real name policy. What do you think? [POLL]

  1. Too litte, too late. I dropped Google in part because of this, over a year ago.

  2. pi_patrol · 444 days ago

    It would to an extent.I use to comment a lot on youtube but once they rolled out the linking to youtube account I stopped. Not that I trolled on youtube or anything but I'd rather not have a potential future employer or even acquaitance google my name and find comments I've posted that might just look idiotic. And I agree,I haven't seen much pure trolling on youtube nowadays. I still hate the fact that whenever someone shares a video on google+,in the comment section of youtube their name shows up with a blank comment.It's irritating and a waste of space

  3. I know a great many people who would prefer not to use their real names on Google+ because they're either very public figures who want to have opinions without it being attached to their place of work or people with extremely unusual names whose opinions result in a lots of harassment.

    Then there are the other cases like LGBT people not out to family or friends. Or the bloggers in countries where their beliefs are illegal and can result in their being imprisoned or executed.

  4. Anonymous · 444 days ago

    I had a bug related to this. I purchased (as opposed to rented - I should be able to keep watching forever) some movies from Google Play. Turned out that I could not actually watch them unless I changed my Youtube account to not use an alias. This bug existed because Google Play movies uses the youtube paid system.

    So hurrah.

  5. LonerVamp · 443 days ago

    I agree, too little too late. I would have happily tried out Google+, but because of that policy, I didn't even get or use that chance. Since then, I've seen my life is not any worse for not being part of it. I'll continue to not be part of that mess.

    But at least now I have the option. So, .1 points for that.

    (YouTube/G+ commenting has it's own issues anyway. The comments are pretty much useless without the top voted ones filtering to the top by default. If I ever, ever had questions about a video, someone somewhere would have already answered it and it'd always be near the top. Alas, no longer.

  6. not only do I already use Google+ but I use it with an assumed name and always have. I'm registered there, as many places with the online persona I commonly use. According to the early 'rules' (documentation) if you could show that you were well known and usually known by an online name you could use that. So I did

    • LonerVamp · 443 days ago

      I don't recall being allowed that, but even if I did see it, I'd have been annoyed and probably not done it on principle anyway.

      Of course, I could have just used something that looks like a normal name. I do have one of those for such purposes, but again, the whole point was lost on Google in their drive to increase advertising profits by being able to tie in real names.

      Tying a real name with someone and something else like a mobile phone number that you pay for leads down all sorts of juicy advertising gold-covered roads with data sharing and mining and querying of things like backend phone data, credit data, etc. That's the sort of stuff I disagreed with in principle with the original rules for G+. :( I admit, I'm a little extra annoyed, because I was actually excited back in the day for G+.

  7. ejhonda · 443 days ago

    Anytime you compromise your standards it smacks of desperation. I must admit it cleaned up some of the YouTube trolling that was so common. I don't begin to participate on Google+ as much as FB due to this restriction, but at this point I don't think this change will impact my willingness to participate one way or the other. Who has the time?

  8. It must not be in effect yet. My profile is still suspended due to name policy. It doesn't impact me for Google+ but it means I can't comment on Youtube videos. My Google+ profile was suspended after it merged to single account and my much older Youtube username was used.

    • Foxpup · 443 days ago

      Same here. I even tried deleting my profile and starting over (no major inconvenience since it's been suspended for years), but no dice. I still can't change my publicly displayed name. I was actually expecting to have to enter a new one, but it seems profile deletion isn't as thorough as I had hoped.

  9. Hate to say it but Google+, which I never use, is still connected not only with YouTube BUT my email. If I delete Google+, I lose both the latter.

  10. Haloan · 442 days ago

    Their policy with respect to real names and linking of G+ and yotube led to a "bug" where if you had a youtube account with a handle and were forced to create a google id and a G+ profile, your youtube handle would remain unchanged and that would also be your G+ "name".

  11. Time · 395 days ago

    This sounds like a plan, even if overdue, but my account is still suspended due to the name issue. What are Google doing, if anything at all, to reinstate the G+ accounts? Today is 3rd September 2014.

  12. Anonymous · 359 days ago

    Oh,I can't leave a comment can I cos I'v not yet been forced to join G+ against my will'have I.Oh no that's YouTu
    be isn't it,silly me.Oh well, off to the court for Human Rights to plead me case for textual abuse!or somesuch.

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About the author

Lee Munson is the founder of Security FAQs, a social media manager with BH Consulting and a blogger with a huge passion for information security.