For years Facebook has kicked out anyone with a “fake name” — this was simply defined as “a name that isn’t typed on an ID card”. Removal of pseudonymous users was simple: it did just take one person to report the profile as “fake” and Facebook immediately removes it; you don’t even get an email or a warning.
Nevertheless, since Facebook allows “Pages” and your nickname to be listed besides your name, pseudonymity activists didn’t raise their voices very loudly.
Not so with Google Plus. Google has always allowed pseudonymous and even anonymous accounts (in the sense that you are allowed to create email addresses for your account with random characters); all services are activated from that account address, no matter what is written on your credit card. When Google launched Google Plus, we all assumed that they would continue their policy of protecting the right to remain pseudonymous. But that didn’t happen. Two months after Google Plus was launched, Google was quite adamant in disallowing Google Profiles with nicknames or other pseudonyms. There is talk among Google’s top brass that they might extend that policy to other services. Google, unlike Facebook, provides a ton of completely different services, some of which are paid (or allow one to earn money), some of which clearly targeted to professional users, who have in the past used pseudonyms to get access and disseminate their corporate data without any problem. Now Google might get rid of all that, and effectively shut down access of individuals and businesses if they refuse to do transactions under a name that Google dislikes. It’s not even about ID cards: the decision to cancel an account is done at the whim of the employee assigned to handle a case.
This has raised a lot of protests on the blogoshpere. Way, way more than Facebook’s attitude ever did! But Google is not turning back.
What does this mean for the future of the Internet?