After three-plus years of restricting users to their real names on the network, Google+ announced today that it is abandoning the policy and allowing people to use any username they choose.
Google’s policy was among the more contentious issues surrounding the social network and had been softened several times, including making allowances for pseudonyms and nicknames in certain occasions. Today it opened the floodgates with a Google+ post:
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, and we hope that today’s change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be. Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.
Previously, Google flagged pseudonyms or even names that it considered unusual for review. That review process has also been eliminated, Yonatan Zunger, the senior engineer on the Google+ team, wrote in a Google+ comment, and all pending appeals have been granted. Zunger also wrote that the name-change policy, which limited changes to three every two years, has been adjusted to one every 90 days.
It’s unclear how the change will affect other features tied into Google+ names, most notably authorship, the display of Google+ bylines on Google search and news results. We are checking into that, as well as the implications for YouTube comments, and will follow up soon.