Google admits that when they launched Google+ over three years ago there were a lot of restrictions on what name could be used on your profile.
If you ask Google, they’ll say this was because it “helped create a community made up of real people,” but they’ll also acknowledge that people who wanted to be a part of the community were left out if they didn’t want to use their real name.
Google+ even gave me a hard time with using my own real name. I had to prove to them that “Southern” was my real last name because it wasn’t a name they were familiar with.
Well, they’re finally loosening up on their restrictions, continuing a trend they started since the launch of Google+. Google+ has been steadily opening up its real name policy, starting with allowing Page owners to use any name they want, as well as letting YouTubers bring their usernames into Google+.
Now, there are no more restrictions on what name you can use. This news came in the form of a Google+ post where Google apologizes for the “unnecessarily difficult” experiences caused by their real name policy.
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.
When this news broke, some applauded Google’s decision while other have been very outspoken against it. The most common complaint is that real names were a way to hold people accountable for they said online, and now all the trolls are going to come out of the woodwork and roam free.
Yonatan Zunger, Chief Architect at Google+, responded to this criticism by telling everyone not to worry:
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… I spent two years working closely with the YouTube team on comments, and I think we have a much better understanding of what turned them into the wretched hive of scum and villainy we all know.
Zunger explains that they have fixed some of the “broken behaviors” that allowed YouTube trolls to run wild. Things like “top comments” rewarding people for getting the most interaction, rather than the most positive interaction.
This change is now live for all Google+ users, not just new users. So if you wanted to change your real name to a nickname, or other screen name you’re known by, you can do that as well.