When Google+ was announced 3 years ago, one of the major criticisms which journalists and users had of it, was its real name policy. While other networks (at least tacitly) allowed users to use pseudonyms to protect their identities online, Google went to great lengths to force users to use their real identities. Such a move mystified tech commentators, given that when Facebook tried to do a similar thing in 2007, it too faced a backlash.
In the last week however, Google has finally decided to backtrack on their original decision, and end the real name policy. In a statement on their official Google+ page they explained:
"When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.
Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.
We know you've been calling for this change for a while. 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…"
This decision comes in the wake of recent moves which suggest that Google is planning to give up on Google+, or at the very least change its strategy for the social network. These moves include the recent closure of several departments within the company related to Google+ and the reshuffling of employees, as well as the complete lack of Google+ announcements at the company’s recent Google I/O developer conference.
With the future of Google+ uncertain, the company will need to do much more than reverse the real name policy in order for it to succeed. In all likelihood however, Google intends to allow the network to die a slow death, rather than spend more time and money to compete with more established players like Facebook and Twitter.
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