What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Those who can remember past the Internet furore of SOPA and PIPA last week, may remember that when Google plus was launched, an awful lot of people were rather annoyed that you could only use your own “real name“, whatever that means.  In fact, G+ specifically disallowed people from using pseudonyms, whilst other forums like Launchpad merely encouraged the practise.  Of course, that leads on to the thorny issue of what a someone’s name looks like in different parts of the world, or is supposed to look like.  Of course, some names are inherently a bad idea to give to your kids, while others have fallen out of fashion, such as Methuselah.  What you name your Wi-Fi network is another matter entirely – my favourite is ”Pretty fly for a wi-fi”.

Now, as has been pointed out, some people don’t want to use their real names on the Internet – pseudonyms are used to avoid online abuse, stalking, identity theft, arrest for political activism, sexual discrimination and other fun things you don’t want to deal with in cyberspace.  In fact, having a real name policy can cause specific harm to a wide category of users

Having said all of that, Google appears to have seen the error of its ways and will now have a “more inclusive” naming policy, including allowing names in non-Latin scripts.  It looks like they have started to realise that some of their assumptions when it comes to what constitutes a name may actually be incorrect.  It also still seems to be up to Google to determine what constitutes, amongst other things, a “meaningful following”.  Would Google, in their infinite wisdom, determine that I could justifiably set up G+ account called Geekonomicon, or would it just delete it as they have done to other users with names they didn’t like the look of?

However, this doesn’t seem to mean you can set up a G+ account and have it be known only by a pseudonym of your choosing; if you have an uncommon name, having it be publicly searchable at all may be something you don’t want, if only to avoid identity theft.

Now, G+ has had those criticising it and even declaring it to be already dead, but it looks like they insist on being  alive and kicking – and changing the goalposts – at least for the time being.


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