Google+ Real Name Policy Nixed After 3 Years

Welcome anonymous comments, cyber bullying: Google has decided to nix the Google+ real name policy, opening doors to endless possibilities for spammers.

google+ real name policy

Photo: 1000 Words / Shutterstock

The move was announced in a Google+ post earlier in the week; the search engine giant said that its main aim was to create a community consisting of ‘real people’, but for unspecified reasons, it’s now removing the condition of requiring Google+ users to submit their real names.

“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.”

That means anyone can use a fake name, or combine a random first and last name to create a completely new name. The Google account can be used to access Gmail, YouTube and other Google services.

Google, who also dropped circle counts and profile photos from search listings, revealed that users have been calling for the real name drop for a while, and apologized for delayed proceedings.

A research firm revealed that more people are using Facebook possibly because Facebook allowed anonymous login. Google’s dropping of the real name policy is similar to Facebook’s approach because Google account users with anonymous or fake names can login to social sites without worry because their accounts do not reveal their real names.

However, the bulk of comments pertaining to the announcement shows that many Google+ users are unhappy with the change, and for solid reasons.

Real name policy decision facing backlash

Some argue that the drop of the policy will encourage troll comments in greater numbers. Others say the move will leave space for unfair competitors to make their Google Business Pages and Google+ profiles popular with unfair or fake comments and reviews.

Users who don’t utilize the social network for business, however, welcome the change, and believe that cyber bullying has less changes under a fake name, although the issue remains debatable. Some users said it was too little, too late, and questioned whether it would lead to more cyber bullying or spamming behind the cloak of an anonymous name.

And now that advocates have been using Google+ with their real names for years, could there be two Google groups, one with real names, and second of anonymous spammers? Seems likely. For a lot of Google+ users, this will be too late, similar to the delaying of branding pages.

The move comes after the Vice President and Creator of Google+ Vic Gundotra left the company in April. His departure, which came as a shock to many at the time, signaled a transition in Google from seeing its branded social network as a platform rather than a product.

Google+ chief architect Yonatan Zunger responded to some of the user comments on the name announcement page:

“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 said.

“It had to do with more subtle aspects of the interface there: things like ‘top comments’ rewarding people for getting the most interaction, rather than the most positive interaction. We’ve changed all those broken behaviors that we could find and are definitely not changing those back.”

He also dismissed that Google is taking a different route from Vic Gundotra’s identity-based vision for the network, stating that Vic was 100 percent involved in the process and approved the whole change months ago.

“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.”

In the past, big announcements about Google+ policy changes have been posted mostly by a member of the Google team, but the latest announcement comes under a company account. Looks like Google is no longer asking people to use their real names, and it has no qualms about posting anonymously, too.

Round-up

Debates about cyber bullying and online anonymity are a part of the digital landscape, but Google’s move pushed the arguments out of community spheres into mainstream consciousness.

The real name dropping announcement and the way Google’s handling it may cast a shadow over a company that has been long regarded as positive and trustworthy. It’s only a matter of time before anonymous comments and fake profiles infiltrate the network.

What is your opinion about Google’s decision? Feel free to leave comments.