Google+ recently announced that it no longer will require its users to use "real" names. Not that everyone did, in fact, use their real names (thanks for the circle, Edgar Allen Poe!), but you get the point. "El1teHax0r" isn't what Google+ was looking for when it rolled out a few years ago.

And there's something to be said for actually using your name on things. It can provide a sense of importance. It also can help hold folks accountable for what they say — though certainly some people just don't care — and, again, it's not like there weren't and aren't ways around that, on Google+ and elsewhere.

And there's also a time and place for anonymity, when privacy and safety are paramount for any number of reasons.

Me? I just like to know who I'm talking to. But it's telling that Google apologized for the names policy being "unclear."

So let's put it to you folks. Did Google+ make the right decision in letting us use something other than "real" names with our profiles?


Reader comments

Did Google+ do the right thing by changing its 'real names' policy?


Judging by the Youtube comments, along with some facebook comments, people still troll with their real names

YT gave me the option to use my original YT Name and I can either use the YT name or my real name with Google+

I honestly don't care, but I prefer to use anonymous because some trolls with no lives will follow your postings to just say negative things everywhere you post, I have seen it with a few posters on sites I go to. Some trolls are stalkers it seem.

I usually log in with disqus, yahoo, or G+ all sinked to one account, but I understand why others who are not trolls want to use other names than their own.

Like that wasn't happening already. Go to any post where someone criticizes Google or praises Apple for something and see the bunch of fanboys commenting, using "real names" and being huge jerks while at it.

Yes, it was unenforceable anyway, I've been using a fake name on there for months now. This just allows people to be honest about not using a real name.

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I agree. I've used my first name only for years now....

On the separate note, Google pushed Wallet app to my phone and I thought - great I like the app. That is until it asked me for a social security number.... :(

No not kidding.... They already have my credit card, and now wanted to "verify identity" using my social security number. Without the ss# you cannot use full functionality of wallet app I think.

Companies can be such idiots sometimes. First they use SS# as a universal ID number, which it was specifically NOT supposed to be used as... then leak them everywhere and put them on everything.... and then act as if SS# is some kind of secret info. It "verifies" absolutely nothing.

Exactly. In this day and age no one wants to be accountable anymore for their actions, especially online.

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It seemed pretty straight forward to me before the change. The name on your Google account was your name on Google Plus. That's the way it should have stayed. The thing I liked the most about Google+ was that you always had a name to put on who you were talking to, and that kept most of the cowardly trolls away.
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Seriously? I didn't get asked to do that. And if they were to I'd tell them to f off. I wouldn't do that just to use a social network, just on principal, even if I was using my real name.

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My wife had to scan and email a copy of our marriage license to change the last name on her Google acct

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It takes a minute to create a fake google gmail with whatever name you want. It doesn't stop trolling at all.

There is a difference between being anonymous and having a pseudonym. A solid psuedonym becomes a reputation you maintain while providing a firewall between public and private personas. At times my net identity has had a higher "Q" score than "I" do.

I don't want to worry that a comment on a play store app or a movie will interfere with a job interview.

I don't want the books I read to cause some other kids' parents to give my kids grief.

I don't want my kids to be cyberstalked because their profile pic turned on a random creeper in Randomstanvania.

The net has had handles since before it was "the net." And there was a reason for it. My professional identity is very vanilla and it should stay that way but I want to be able to be my kind of colorful online.

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I totally agree with this. I have never used Google+ because I can't use a pseudonym, so I had to stop giving any feedback(positive or negative) on the play store. It's not about anonymity for me, it's about privacy. I don't need everyone and anyone knowing what I do no matter how innocent it is. Yes, I'm an introvert. I have never joined Facebook or any other "social media" site either and as much as I like Youtube, I've never once commented on any videos.

I thought this change in "real names" policy was good until I checked further and it appears that if you use a different name on Google+ then that also changes your Gmail name. Not exactly ideal, unless I'm missing something. I guess I'll just continue not to review or rate any apps in the play store, sorry devs.


I use solid pseudonyms online not because I am hiding, and I am never a douchebag online. I say the exact same things I would on accounts that use my real name, and I retain the pseudonyms for many years. But there is that matter of privacy.... and just because I want to comment on some blog or some site, doesn't mean I want everything I say and do everywhere, for all time, easily linked back.

But there are FAR more privacy implications with using any Google service than your outward facing name- because everything you do is being linked behind the scenes by Google to your real identity, regardless of what you want to call yourself. And the more you "Googleify" your life, the more information they gather and link. This is one reason I won't use Google+ at all. I tend to not want to put all my "eggs" in one basket- I do use Android and Google Maps, but I use Firefox, I use a different search engine (startpage), I use a third-party SMS app, I don't use my Gmail account for anything outside of Android, I buy music through Amazon, etc.

Well said. I would also add that the main problem is that G+ ties into everything else. If it was JUST a social network and you want to have a real name for the social network component of it then go for it. However, it has crept into everything; Youtube, playstore reviews, etc. I think it is dumb that I can't review an app or a movie without a G+ account. I can't use hangouts on iOS without a G+ account. I can't install the chrome plugin for hangouts without G+ but I can use it in gmail? Like you I don't want every damn relatively insignificant thing able to be traced by anyone. For instance, I was looking at a movie in the playstore and it surfaced a review from a coworker. I just find that a little much. I have no business knowing what he watched. He may not care that the world knows what he is doing but I don't think the internet needs to know what I'm up to much less surface it to my circles or whatever. I know many of you don't care but I just find it a little much especially when it could impact current and future jobs, relationships, etc.

I also think it is funny that people are so afraid of the trolls or whatever. I would assume that current policy would encourage fake accounts. I should know. I made one so I could run hangouts on iOS. I read another thread on this issue and a guy said he had 15 accounts. The only current barrier I see to the old policy is just finding a username that wasn't already taken.

Do the ends justify the means or do the means justify the ends?

Google + technically is very cool with some pretty compelling features but features alone are not enough to attract a user base of any meaningful number. I was talking with a colleague in my employer's PR department and he said that while Google + plus is nicely done technically it is not by any means used enough to be an effective marketing tool. There are certain groups who have found a home on Google + but there is not a wide enough base to make it viable to the masses.

So why did Google make this change? My gut says to attract more users who prefer a "cool" name or a nick name rather than their real live in person name. So, the end, allowing other names other than your "real" name justifies the change (the means) in hopes that it attracts more users.

Google is going to do what is thinks best and clearly they believe that by making this change their are going to attract more users and users generate $$$$$$$$ in terms of ad revenue. At a certain point if more users are not attacted Google is going to have to pull the plug as throwing money at something is only viable for so long.


Does it matter? Have you guys gone through any community lately? Many spammers have 'real names' and spam. A lot.

I didn't care for it then, I don't care for it now. Trolls will be trolls. At least there are tools to block them out.

Ya like people who have these names like naji sammish

Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 running Android L or Samsung galaxy S5

Wait until all the complaints when people change their name, and find out that it changes it for all of their other Google apps (including GMail) too. There will no doubt be an outcry for Google to allow individual names for each app. *Sigh*

Some people have developed years of solid reputation under their alias, so it isn't necessarily an issue of anonymity, but rather a recognizable "brand" and the ability to use that brand consistently across platforms like YouTube, twitter, etc., and now G+ that I'm in favor of this change.

Exactly. While I like the intent behind "only real names", the definition of "real name" is sufficiently fuzzy that they couldn't reasonably enforce it. I'm "Mike" on any document where I got to fill it out, but some places have me as "Michael", and I occasionally have problems if I use the wrong one with an organization. For some reason, that alias is acceptable to Google+, but an alias of M1k3 wouldn't be. I'm not sure allowing "anything" is a better situation than only allowing established handles, even though the latter is probably unenforceable.

I prefer to have the "Real Name" on G+. Like others have said it lends some credibility to an account. One person I know uses a type of "Brand". It really is a handle he has used for years and even answers to it in person. On the other hand most of the people I interact with on G+ have handles (ok we call them agent names) and seeing the real name on G+ is almost confusing. It would be nice if Google added an obvious place to put a handle and an option to use the handle or real name on a post or hangout.

I don't see how a real name adds any credibility. Credibility has to be proven as some people are quite content to talk complete manure (whether knowingly or unknowingly). So I don't see a problem with someone building credibility for a pseudonym as opposed to their real name if that is what they want.

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I don't like the change because while you'll never really atop the trolls who really want to troll, I think that it makes most reasonable people at least think twice about what they put on the internet, which we need more of, not less. The "sober second thought" if you will.

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Even with the old "REALNAMEPLZKTHX" policy, there were plenty of jerks, trolls, and spammers all over G+. (Some communities were worse than others.) Real names, fake names, whatever. As long as I can right click on some random idiot and block them forever, I don't care.

I always thought it was stupid to have a real name policy, though: it reduces posting, as well as public posting. And that's simply bad for business. I'm not going to reply to some posts or even +1 them if my Government Handle is attached to them. Now if I'm just "uchuujin" located "over there," then I'll +1 the hell out of stuff and comment away. But as my Government? So some HR clown can Google me and say, "He's not really a good fit" based on my G+ conversations? Do I look that dumb?

I think that it should be a both system. i think that people should have to put their real names on their profiles. But if you want to use an username to be referenced by there's nothing wrong with that.

I kinda care and don't care at the same time. There were always and will be people who don't use their real name, (be it a legitimate pseudonym or an obviously made-up). However, it irks when I see those people. i's like Facebook - the name Cupcake Princess or John 'darealmvp' $$$mith are just irritating on that platform.

I know this is exactly the response you were seeking but I've been using a pen name/email name for my Google account for years. When I logged into Google + after seeing the editorial, I saw no way to change the name nor did any of the stories written here or Android Authority mention HOW to change a name IF you wanted to :) As to your request, I don't have a problem with this move at all

Yeah. It's where I hit up your mom when I want to bang her. Her response time is quite quick..usually 30 minutes between booty call and booty.

Google+ is one of the few serious social networks left out there where there is a certain level of people participating. I believe the new feature will attract more irresponsible people that will drop this level further down.

I didn't vote because I'm not sure. Yes, not having to give your name leads to more trolling, general hatefulness, racism, etc. However, it also allows you to express your opinion without someone or something like the company you work for coming down on you because you don't have the exact same beliefs. And believe me, large corporations will do just that. They can find a way to punish or fire you without it having to do with what you said even though it is directly tied to what you said.

It doesn't make much difference considering there wasn't much of an active user base to begin with.

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Any club that you refuse to join is automatically preferred to one you do. If you aren't there, that's exactly the place to be.

I think it should be real names. People should be accountable for what you post. If real name were you it would cut down on a lot of garbage on the inter net. There no accountability.

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What difference does it make? I mean really? The internet and computers are just a fad anyways. Honestly, I don't see either of them last more that a couple more years.

I work for a major American corporation with over 100K employees. We are a Google shop and use Google+ extensively for corporate communication and discussion. It's not going anywhere.

That's a perfect use for it. It is the stupid tie in to other services that make Google + stupid.

I was always neutral on the matter. I used my real first name, but I didn't put my last name, just my last initial. Wasn't a big deal to me. Now that I can change my name, I don't even know what I want to use instead. Its not like we can use a screen name. It still asks for a first and last name; neither can be left blank

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I just want Google + to go away, at least the requirements that are tied to it like the Games app and the fact I cannot leave a review for a paid app. Google + would be killed off in a spring cleaning if google wasn't keeping it on life support by tying it to services people want to use.

I like how Amazon does it with Real Names for reviews.

Sure, it's possible that somebody can spoof the billing information with a prepaid "debit card" and a fake name but they at least check it against the name used in shipping and billing. USPS cares about who they deliver to but UPS and FedEx will ship any name to anywhere without a second thought. It's still not perfect but some icon saying that it's somebody's real name with a impossible or at least difficult way to spoof would be nice...then you can filter out people who don't use their real name.

The concept of "real name" was always unenforceable and a complete joke to begin with. Unless they started requiring you to send in government issued IDs as proof (like some countries do), there's nothing to prevent you from putting in a "real sounding name" that has no relation to anything. And if they started requiring IDs, I would simply delete all my Google accounts overnight and use alternative services as the last thing I want to give Google is even more control over everything than they already have.

This sounds like a good move. For me, I am not a blogger looking for attention for I prefer to have a degree of anonymity to the general public on sites such as these. For example, my username is what the majority of you guys should know me.

Since I do not have a common name (e.g. John Smith) I would rather not have my real name on display on the internet for potential employees, etc to find (They instead will just find my corporate-friendly LinkedIn account). Remember, things you say on a public forum can stay with you for life, even if your views change. It's one thing that's stopped me leaving Google Play reviews.

Of course, using a public username/nick name or whatever does not mean people can troll away thinking they won't get caught. If you have to sign up using your real name but have that hidden to the public using your nickname, if a complaint comes in from another user, Google (or any other site) would still be able to link the malicious post to you and you would still be held accountable. Of course, trolls will sign up with fake names etc but that's no different to how it is now.

I've always used my real name in G+, Facebook, etc....... Using another handle seems disingenuous.

Posted via Nexus 5 with SwiftKey

A social network its logical to ask people to use their real names. Asking me to use that same name on youtube was plain stupid. Like I want all my friends knowing what kind of trash I watch and comment on in youtube.

I think the real name policy was the only thing that made google plus a serious social networking site

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Doesn't Facebook require a real name (and much more) when you sign up? If so what is the difference? Why would someone happily give up all their anonymity to Facebook then complain about a 'real name' for G+?

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Because to continue to participate on YouTube as we have done for years, they force you to join g+. Other than that I have no prob with the real name policy. In fact, it woulda been kinda cool because it would have kept the social site accountable but the decided that having more users was more important, so really this was about Google, not the ppl complaining. No one would have complained otherwise.

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The main difference is that you adjust your privacy settings to that your posts and comments can only largely be seen by your friends (despite tricks Facebook try to change your settings). I cannot control who sees my comments on this site.

And example is your username ACADM. If I look on your profile I cannot see you full "real" name. Why don't you use your full name on here? Perhaps you prefer using a nickname which is how it should be. If need be Android Central could still make it a requirement to know your real name (even if hidden from public view) so if you post something offensive under the nick of ACADM you can still be made accountable under law

If they didn't force youtubers to join g+, I wouldn't care, but in this case it's good they changed it. Obviously in that case it's not about right thing, cuz letting youtubers opt out would at least be the right thing from the consumer side of things.

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Identity is more about the name your mom gave you. When I joined the internet it was not a place you gave your real name on. I would argue it still isn't. Either way I should be able to go by the name people know me by.

You only need your real name when you put in a credit card. Forcing real names never stopped trolls or encouraged accountability. Assholes are assholes.

I am transgender... im trying to start a new life... not bring in my old past in to my new life. people out htere would like to hurt if not kill me.. not even touching the spot with stalkers i've had trying to out me to people who would do damage to me.