Google+ caught some flak for its strict real-names policy when it launched. Users who tried to sign up under their hip web handles had their profiles shut down; when that caused an uproar, Google+ said it would give users four days of warning. Locally, blogger-veterans Anil Dash and Scott Beale spoke out against the policy. Then Microsoft researcher and blogger Danah Boyd, who prefers to be referred to as danah boyd, or ‘zephoria,’ the name that got her into a tiff with Tumblr, wrote “Real Names’ Policies Are an Abuse of Power,” explaining how anonymity on the web protects important discourse from minorities, victims and those with other incentives not to speak. “Personally, I’m ecstatic to see this much outrage” over Google’s harsh real-name policy on Google+, she said at the time.
“One of the things we strive for on Google+ is to make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world,” product manager Saurabh Sharma said in a G+ post at the time. “So as part of this effort, we’ve asked that those signing up for the service use the name they commonly go by in the real world.”
But now, the flip-flop! Google’s VP of product, Bradley Horowitz (who goes by “Elatable” around the web) just announced the young social network is now more tolerant of non-real names. Was it because no one was hanging out?
The change came out because of user feedback, Mr. Horowitz said. “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,” Mr. Horowitz wrote on Google+. “This name will show up on your Google+ profile and in the hovercards which appear over your name.” Users can display just their “nicknames,” but Google still wants to know your real name—and existing users must undergo a review process. Dibs on “Elatable!”