Nymwars: Google Plus Account Real Name Policy Debate

By Xah Lee. Date:

Recently there's a debate, complaint, mostly from Second Life players, about Google Plus's policy of account names. Namely, Goole+ is starting to ban accounts whose name does not seem like real people names. On the web, many notable Second Life personalities are lobbying or boyscotting Google Plus. See here and collection of blogs and press articles about it:

[My Google Plus Profile has been suspended because I'm using my Second Life avatar identity By “Opensource Obscure” At flickr ]

(if you don't know what Google Plus is, see: What is Google Plus and Google Plus Songs (humor).)

I say: fuck avatars. Shows ur rl face.

remember like 10 years ago in the late 1990s or early 2000s, when the Cyperspace has the saying that nobody knew you are a dog? and when you went to online forums when such began (e.g. livejournal), everybody has names like batman this or vampire that. You can never know who the fuck they are, and can never trust anyone. Everybody talks their big talks and whatnot lala-world behind their masks. (actually, just like Second Life today) Real business or relationship development is very difficult. Thanks largely to the “Face” in Facebook, today that's mostly gone, where any normal people, joe and jane, moms and pops, grand ma and aunts, can more easily establish real friends, conduct business, get hired, date and get married, meeting new people and friends online. I don't like Facebook, due to its terrible ethics (See: Facebook's Ethics.), but in the history of the web, it is due to Facebook that the use of real names and real photos became a common practice.

of course, there'll always be a small group of people who prefer to go anonymous for various reasons. e.g. they might be “hackers” (shy engineer types), or married people who want to explore online sex, or they might want to discuss political sensitive issues. Or, just as in real life, some are extremely shy, social phobia, or the creepy personality types (me), etc. That's all good. For this group of people, why do you want to be in a SOCIAL NETWORK in the first place? There's still good reasons some want to be on Google Plus, then you could use “real” pseudonyms, e.g. John White, Mary Jane, Lewis Carroll, Pauline Réage. Google Plus doesn't really force you to match your name with a real life ID, and nobody would pick you out for that. Please, no Batman, Venus, Morpheus, Princess X. There is, after all, literally a Second Life for that.

(with respect to my SL friends. But my rants stay their style as is. LOL)

See also a precedence: The Demise of orkut.com.

Here's one of the online article about the issue: The Google Plus Controversy and Virtual Worlds – A Question Of Identity By Avril Korman. At http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2094549/The-Google-Controversy-Virtual-Worlds-A-Question-Of-Identity

Here's a comment i made, written more for SL crowd, edited:

even i hate Facebook for their terrible ethical standards, but it is due to Facebook that the use of real names and real photos became a common practice, with that, making real friends and conduct business online became more widespread. Before Facebook (say ~2005), the internet forums are like today's 4chan, or, Second Life: you never see any real name or photos in any forum or comment.

note that Google Plus does not force you to use real life identity. It simply want you to not use fantasy names, e.g. Morpheus, Barbie. They have good business reason too. When grandma or business men went to a social network, and when a significant percentage of people you see there are Batman and Barbie or Dragons, what are the chances your grandma and businessman want to sign up?

this is the same reason Facebook became a huge success for social networking — due to it's roots that focus on real people and real photos, the Face in Facebook, the Book of your Alma Mater. It is this reflection on real life, that common people, who barely knew what's a email (e.g. your mom, your grandpa) became a part of it. Before Facebook, there's plenty of social networks (livejournal, slashdot, blogger etc), none of which focused on real name with photos. Similarly, linkedin is also successful, due to its focus on employer/employee networking, which require real identities. (i suppose myspace too, though i haven't used it.)

if you want anonymity, there's no lack of places to go. Second Life, 4chan, countless gaming communities. In general, you don't conduct business, or establish real life friends, etc on these communities. You conduct fantasy and beer friends there.

the US law cited, if true, doesn't require that Google or any social network services regarding using “any” names. Try to join a real life club using Batman. See if they kick you out, and see if you can sue them successfully.

as digital age marches forward, increasingly more activities are done online by *common people* (not just gamers, artists, outcasts, technologists, or young people). e.g. online purchase, online dating. These began as forward-looking and questionable, but thru the past decade more and more every activity that's possible online will become common practice. And for this to happen for common people, real life identity is essential. It's going to happen whatever your stance is on Google Plus's naming policy, or whether Google Plus fail or not. It's a matter of time. While, this does not mean anonymous communities will disappear, on the contrary, i agree with you that there'll be more and am glad for that. But it just ain't gonna be Google Plus, and personally i want Google Plus to succeed, and kill Facebook.

Google Name Nonsense (2011-08-02) By lorenfeldman

More on Google Plus Naming Controversy

let's for a moment forget about Google Plus policy, what it should be, or its wording. Think about just this: if a significant number of a social network has fantasy names and fantasy profile pictures. Then, will average people sign up when they see that? (e.g. your mom, grandpa, etc, who have little idea what social network is).

We see a lot protest on Google Plus naming. From technologists, sl people, freedom fighters, etc. LOUD. But all things considered, that's really a very small percentage of people, perhaps less than 0.01% of all potentially might use social network (e.g. those currently on facebook or twitter).

If you think that would not effect the incentive for average people to sign up, then i have no argument. Otherwise, it is a issue for google. Google cannot bluntly say: we forbid fantasy names because it'd effect our business. You can't be a business and be blunt like that. So, they go around it the best way they can. Ultimately, they cannot allow massive fantasy names coming to Google Plus when it just started.

orkut failed partly due to that. (so-called “brazilian invasion”, and porn, and whatnot un-real-life things) I was on orkut the first month orkut started, and spend about 6 hours a day in orkut for the first 2 years when orkut started. I lived to see orkut fail. (fail is relative. Orkut failed to be the google's domination of world's social network, but is still ranked as the ~100th most traffict site today, and is enjoyed in brazil. (in fact, google moved headquarter and datacenter to brazil few years ago))

Some think that the google name controversy as unfair or unjust. Note that according to TOS, they don't even allow posting porn, not even closeup of cleavage. I love porn. I join a social network, posting info strictly to my friends or those who follow me. What business google has to forbid me posting porn? If we complain the naming issue as a correct policy issue, then the posting porn surely is a bigger infringement on personal freedom?

if google allow fantasy names flatly, then, furries, dragonkins, trolls, the anonymous, the 4chan.org stuff will all flock here in a instant. Like many of you, i've spend like 6 hours a day on sl for at least 3 years, every day. If you also spend much time in sl, and explore different communities there, you know what kinda things exists there, what or what kinda things people do there. These (or us) are people who live on the web and they have plenty of time and resource to post those things and cry protest etc. You seen pictures and videos of people eating shit right? the 2 girls 1 cup? photo and vid of people cutting off their own penis? I have no problem with these myself (i'm a libertarian), but do you think most people will not find it offensive?

OK, spent like 2 or 3 hours arguing about the Google Plus naming controversy. Was being a cut-throat, but here's a more polite, sensible, version.

Remember that google is not asking people for Real Names as in the name on their ID. They simply just doesn't want fantasy names, best way to put it. They repeated this many times from many googlers, yesterday or so from the head manager. As i argued, the reason is very simple. Because when a good percentage of people on Google Plus has names like that, with fantasy pictures (dragons, furries, mech, etc) then mom and pop will not sign up, and that spells the end of Google Plus as a competitor to Facebook.

By no means i'm right, and my public argument are never personal. Many SL people, are extremely creative, that i admire. Several of them i've came to know are my friends and are here, and one i know of has been ban'd. (am pretty sure she isn't happy about my arguing against it. I feel bad.) I don't want you or botgirl (both i haven't met before) to be axed. But as far as public argument on controversial topics (political or otherwise), i like to argue my points.

It is important for anonymity to stay on the internet. I fully support it too. Though also note that anonymity and Google Plus are related but not the same issue, as google has repeatedly indicated they don't require ID names. The details of many specific arguments from SL folks Google Plus naming, i didn't find very fair.

about what should be be Google Plus naming policy, i think currently they are doing the right thing. The critical thing is that they must survive sufficiently to take on Facebook or Twitter. That is the point of Google Plus. Because, there's orkut.com already.

I think it might be important to emphasize a bit about the existence of orkut. Orkut is google's previous try at social networking. It has millions of users, and is ranked about 100th most traffic site in the world as of now. It is fully integrated with Picasa or google's other services, much like Google Plus is. Yet it generally considered a failure, because, when in comparison to facebook, it is way behind, and Google being the dominant internet player, so it seems orkut is a failure, and now they try Google Plus.

Orkut "failed" for many reasons, but one reason contributed to its failure i think important is related to naming and behavior policy. If you been there (~2004 or so), you know there's a wave of "brazilian invasion". It was hugely controversial. If you were there, you know that all kinda things fly there, porn too, out of control. Google wasn't able to control it. And Brazilians are starting to use their own language Portuguese despite that many forums clearly stated that English should be used (it's decided by each forum's starter/owner, and anyone can start a forum too)

I think Orkut is very relevant here, because Google Plus must not repeat the same "mistakes". The policy dictates what kinda social network it'll create. That's the reason i think Google Plus is quite firm about their naming policy. For google's social networking to be considered a success, it must require average joe, mom, pops, aunts, grandpa, types to join. Else it'll just be another Orkut or hundreds other online social network sites. If you are honest, you know there's really huge number of really weird things on SL right? and part of it is sex related things, and there's griefers, massive number of rowdy teens whom's got tens of alts. And some claim to be so-called dragonkins (i.e. they believe they are dragons (in RL))… i won't get into detail, but you know SL is home to many fringe types (no disrespect. But that means e.g. artists, creative types, punks, those who likes to attend Burning Man, etc. (counting myself in)). When you argue about Google Plus naming, one couldn't push aside these grifer or other borderline bad types as if they are not relevant or doesn't exist. If Google Plus is to allow any name, can you really say that thousands of these people, with dragons, furries, water-sports (and other sexual fetish too obscure, offensive, and some illegal to name), won't come on Google Plus with their avatar pictures?

I think it'd be nice for Google Plus to support absolute blunt anonymity with fantasy names and blunt fantasy profile photos and descriptions. (or even porn, i love it) I myself haven't really been using any sort of online handlers, and i prefer to act with people who are RL identifiable. Though, my support for absolute anonymity isn't just lip service. For instance, i consider the current "Anonymous" upheaval on wikileaks issue critically important. (here, legally speaking, these Anonymous are criminals, but i support their deeds, so far, because not everything can go by law, otherwise the USA itself is treason, or any revolution.) But then i think one also should be careful here in what we want. Fantasy profile killing Google Plus is a real possibility.

Google+ Spam

on a different subject … there are already several accounts that's pure marketing spam accounts adding me to their circles. It works like this. Let's say you sell health insurance, and with a site with ads too. Create a Google Plus account. Then, add as many people to your circle as possible. (a large percentage of Twitter and Facebook accounts are like that). If you have 1k in your circle, perhaps 1% will get curious and click to see who you are in your link. Bang, effective enough marketing!

Which Circle to Put Your Friends In?

On a separate subject, about the circles, the theory is that in rl we all have different circles to do diff things with, e.g family, close friends, workmates, roommates etc. So comes Google Plus with circles. But then, doesn't seems to work. Because, to work it out, it's a extreme pain to manage the circles. Online, typically we know hundreds of people. You're not sure which circle or circles to add them to. Not sure what circles you should create. e.g. in my case, on intimacy level there's friends to barely chatted once in some online form. Friends are in quite diverse group too. (beer friends, child-hood friends but not friendly friends, life-death friends, platonic friends, girl/boy friends, etc.) Then, the community and context you know them are diverse too. e.g. me, some are from the Second Life community, some are programing/emacs community, some are math professors. Some RL situation. If you just adopt the default circles Google Plus provided: {friends, family, acquaintances, following}, that's wholly inadequate that one might just as well abandon the circle idea. If you do try to create the circles and put people in the right one, it's extremely time consuming to manage and inflexible. Hard to change when relationship grows or changes.

googleplus circle management
Googleplus circle management. Source: [Joey DeVilla https://plus.google.com/110828670835957136050/about]

PS add me on Google Plus here [Xah Lee Google Plus https://plus.google.com/112757647855302148298/posts]

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