When YouTube introduced the new commenting system in November 2013, it was an attempt to tackle a number of issues, one of which included making users accountable for their comments by forcing them to use their real names. After an avalanche of bad feeling from the YouTube community, Google has now reversed the decision, and issued the following statement:
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. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.
Although they are apologizing for their naming policy, I decided to take it that they were apologizing for the entire project. Considering the way it was forced upon YouTube users, thinking of it in that way makes me feel a whole lot better.
On one hand, this change could re-open the flood gates for trolls to return to YouTube but let’s be honest here, they never left. They may have been mildly inconvenienced by the policy but they found ways around the real naming policy and hell they have even impersonated President Barack Obama.
In April of this year Vic Gundotra resigned from his position at Google as Senior Vice President of Social and this recent change could be another domino in the changes for G+. While properly enforced real names can make users accountable for their actions, one of the most beautiful things about the internet is the ability to pursue and discuss issues civilly (not not) without being worried about somebody coming to your home to finish the discussion in person.
A Victory for Privacy
Those users who were open to the naming switch have likely already adopted the old policy, myself included. So by making this switch G+ doesn’t really lose much, but they do gain a good bit of attention by making a change that users have been asking to be done for quite some time. Now that G+ has a pretty good handle on spammers on both YouTube and G+, making this moves costs them little but should garner plenty of good will with upset users.
This is a victory for those who believe a person should be able to control their own privacy and identity online. For the extra spam and internet trolls here or there, I say it’s well worth the privacy.