Posted July 16, 2014 3:50 pm by with 0 comments

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name-tagRemember when you first signed up for Google+ and you were required to use your real first and last name? Remember when YouTube decided that you had to start signing in to that site with the same real first and last name? Remember when people got all upset because they couldn’t use the persona they wanted to use to post and leave comments?

Well, forget it. Google+ has changed its mind.

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.

I’m sure there are people who wanted to use phony names for nefarious reasons but they’ll find a way around any rules so. . .  But I also I know a lot of fangirls who developed a following under a pseudonym or simply didn’t want their families to know they were writing racy fanfiction – both good reasons to post under a phony name instead of your real name.

Then there were the business owners who wanted to do business under their brand 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.

Whoohoo! The gates are open. We can now be who we want to be. . . except for one thing. . . as marketers and business owners, we’ve already invested time and money in building our brands based on the names we were forced to choose. What happens now? Google+ does allow you to make a name change but you have to submit it to them and wait for it to happen.

More thoughts:

  • If you don’t have to use your real name, people can take any name they want, including yours and that of your business.
  • If we don’t have to use real names, we’re back to opening the door to trolls and spammers. I don’t know about Google+, but YouTube comments took a drastic turn for the better when they started requiring Google+ logins.
  • What happens to the YouTube account that is connected. Can we change that name, too?

What’s in a name? A lot more than anyone imagined before social networking took hold.

Finally, Google apologizes for any misery their policy may have caused you.

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.

I’m glad to see them acting on user feedback but I have a terrible feeling this new shift is going to cause even more confusion and trouble. For the moment, I’m staying put. You?