Google+ is now supporting nicknames and names in another script in addition to its required “real names” policy, the social network’s latest olive branch to accommodate different modes of identity.
However, the company fell short on supporting all pseudonyms, which is what many people were looking for so they can speak their mind on the Web while protecting their true identities.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) caused a stir last July by suspending without warning Google+ accounts of those who registered under pseudonyms, or false names. The company eased up a bit in August, giving pseudonym users four full days to comply and supply their real names before suspending their accounts for failing to comply.
Google argued that mandating real names was the only way to preserve quality of the social network going forward–as in helping users find other people on the network by their real names.
Several users rebelled. Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd called this approach an “abuse of power.” Bradley Horowitz, Google+ vice president of product management, vowed to work on the issue. Horowitz provided the update via Google+:
“Over the next week, we’ll be adding support for alternate names – be they nicknames, maiden names, or names in another script – alongside your common name. This name will show up on your Google+ profile and in the hovercards which appear over your name. In the next few weeks, we’ll be displaying it more broadly as part of your name in other areas of Google+ as well. So if you’re Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jane Doe (Smith), or Saurabh Sharma (सौरभ शर्मा), you can now communicate your identity the way you want to.“
Any user name changes will be changed across any service requiring a Google profile. Users who wish to add an alternate name can go to their Google+ profile, click Edit Profile, select their name and click on “More options,” as detailed in screenshots of Horowitz’ post.
Horowitz said Google’s data analysis, based on name appeals, shows that 60 percent of users want nicknames. Some 20 percent comprise businesses that mistakenly set up their organization as a personal profile rather than the Google+ Pages the company launched in November for this purpose.
The remaining 20 percent of people seek pseudonyms. These are the people whose desires have yet to be fully served by Google+ name policies. Horowitz explained that Google will broaden support for established pseudonyms, such as +trench coat and +Madonna.
Users may try to use pseudonyms going forward. If Google flags their name, users can send Google references to an established identity offline in print media and news articles, scanned official documentation, such as a driver’s license or passport, and “proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following.”
In other words, users have to be minor to major celebrities. Horowitz added:
“We’ll review the information and typically get back to you within a few days. We may also ask for further information, such as proof that you control a Website you reference. While a name change is under review, your old name will continue to be displayed. For new accounts without an old name, your profile will be in a non-public, read-only state during the review. Either way, you’ll be able to see the status of your review by going to your profile.“
Google employees will do the vetting on a case-by-case basis.
Essentially Google is taking baby steps to supporting pseudonyms. This won’t please everyone for now, especially those who fear having their real identities revealed on Google+, but it is a step in the right direction for broadening the social network’s identity spectrum.