This post is not about pseudonyms.

It is about Google's enforcement of the following phrase, "it’s important to use your common name". If Google truly believes in that statement, this is what I believe they need to do:


Google can not continue with a policy that is so arbitrary that people's real names are rejected, and people's "known as" names are approved one time, and then rejected the next time they are challenged. Nobody wants to invest in a social network which may arbitrarily ban them at any moment. At the very least, the following needs to be done.

1. Once approved, a name needs to be permanently approved. Flag the account as valid. No double jeopardy. I can't think of a better way to alienate users than the knowledge that at any minute they could be ejected again.

2. Define "common name" in terms of online information. Yeah, good luck on that, but at least try. How many years? How many blog posts? How many twitter followers is worth a Linkedin profile with followers? Google can't make this arbitrary. I need to know when I sign up that my account is not going to get nuked. You can't expect people to devote significant effort to making posts and building their network if they know that they could be removed at any time. I have a domain using my ID, I have 40,000 tweets over three years with over a thousand followers. I have a blog. I have a paid Flickr account with 40+ followers. Is that enough? Can Google say with certainty? I certainly can't. When is Facebook a valid reference? As far as I can tell it's only used to see if a user's slight variations in western names are being used elsewhere, it's not enough if your name is Zaphod Beeblebrox. Google needs to define the rules and publish the definitions. (And if Google can't define it, they should stop claiming that they allow it.)

3. Define "commonly name" in terms of offline information. "Government issued ID" is not an indication of commonly known as. Google claims that the Google+ VP's common name is Vic, and that it's not a nickname. But the dictionary doesn't distinguish between a common name and a nickname, and Google has made no indication of how they distinguish. Furthermore, Google provides no indication of how a common name can be determined offline. What proof is sufficient? References? Once again, if Google can't do this, they should stop claiming that they allow it.

4. Address the international issue. China, Burma, Thailand, India. Google's rules fail there and in other places around the world (including the U.S.). Common names aren't documented online or off. Names change. People don't always have last names. Google needs to either admit that they aren't ready to allow people from those cultures, or get rid of the restriction, it's making them look like idiots. (I'm not trying to be insulting here, but ignoring these problems is really making Google look culturally insensitive.)

5. Answer the question of how Google is going to deal with profiles from hosted domains when they finally add support for profiles. Is Google really going to force existing paying customers to change their names before they sign on to Google+? If not, why do they get a free ride and nobody else does?

Why are these issues important?

Because by leaving them unanswered, Google looks inconsistent and two-faced. They are claiming to do one thing, but they are actually doing another. And if we can't take Google seriously about these issues, why on earth should we take them seriously when they say they might eventually support pseudonyms?


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