With the advent of Google+, there also spawned a great topic of argument. I am referring of course to Google+’s name policy. This has spawned more debate and anger than I’ve seen on the Internet in a while, ranging from people who agree completely with Google, to people with legitimate reasons to be against them… to people who just like to argue. But what does it really boil down to? Is Google enforcing a “real name” policy, or just trying to enforce honesty?Lately I’ve noticed a lot of news sites, like Mashable, are reporting on the name bans, citing the Google TOS (Terms Of Service) as saying that “the policy, designed to fight spam and prevent the creation of fake profiles, suspended several high-profile users for using their commonly-known pseudonyms instead of their real names.” Even the top link on Google when you type in “Google+ Pseudonym Ban” comes up with faulty information. Where the sad fact of the matter is… this blatantly isn’t true.
As more discerning members of Google+ are beginning to notice and point out, Google’s TOS does not specifically ban users from using a pseudonym. Rather, it bans them from using an alias which they are not commonly known by. This would, for example, be like me only going by “ravnos” on there. I am known as ravnos to some people, but not commonly. Ian “ravnos” Muller would be more appropriate. The TOS also bans people from going by only one name (mononym). “Ian” or “Muller” would not be appropriate (more on this later). So what is the actual deal?
The TOS states…
“To help fight spam and prevent fake profiles, use the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your full legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, either of those would be acceptable.”
This does NOT mean you have to use your legal name. That is simply the example that they give. It does mean you have to use your common name, what the majority of people know you by and call you. To use a celebrity example – Lady Gaga. Or 50 Cent. They simply want a first and last name, and what you are commonly known as. Makes perfect sense to me. But is this still an issue?
Well, what about Banksy? Or users with a legal mononym? Or hell… PRINCE (the artist formerly known as…)? How are these people affected? Currently? Negatively. One user, who’s legal name (recent change) is simply “Sai” has had quite a few problems getting Google to recognize this, according to a lengthy post he made on Google+. At this point, however, it seems Google is almost too embarrassed to continue trying to solve the issue – their silence is very telling. Which is understandable, they are being attacked by a very small but vocal community, who has the backing of a lot of angry users.
So, is there a simple way to solve this problem and make everyone happy? Probably not, but the best approach right now would be to make an official announcement stating… basically what I just did. Additionally, it might help Google to access their stance on mononyms… obviously they have hit a roadblock there. My personal suggestion would be to have people list their name, as well as a nickname. Then allow people to control which name is visible to the public vs. Circles. This way I can be displayed as “ravnos” to someone who isn’t already in my Circles, but “Ian Muller” to those who are. I would also be searchable by either name. It makes sense to me…
I think the anger towards Google is misplaced at this point, but I do agree they need to clarify things more. Otherwise people are going to continue to be confused, and other media isn’t helping much.