Google ends ‘real name’ YouTube commenter policy, shuffles Google+ pack again

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Last month MarketingTech noted the third birthday of Google+ with the question: Is it time to wave the white flag? It was one of the most popular articles of the month, and the sentiment certainly resonated among our community with over 50 comments.

Well, Google has had another crack at modifying its problem child social network by removing its strict naming regulations and reversing a policy which Google bods admitted was “unclear.”

In an official post, Google apologised, saying: “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.

“We hope that today’s change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be,” it added.

Called ‘the last step’, Google added: “There are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”

Except there still are. There has to be at least a first and last name – although one of them can be an initial – and there are no swear words or anything else that violates Google’s terms of service.

It’s certainly less restrictive than before, but as Google+ accounts will still be tied to YouTube, Analytics, and other parts of the Google ecosystem, it’s a fine line that has to be walked.

There were various reasons Google merged Plus accounts with YouTube accounts. The cynically minded argued that it ensured users needed the stick of Google+ by offering the carrot of YouTube. But, just as valid, it helped remove a lot of the poisonous vitriol which passed for YouTube comments before Google took the reins. If keyboard warriors wanted to write vile things underneath YouTube videos, they’d have to stand up and be counted.

On the flip side, this might add more actual comments to your favourite YouTube videos. How annoying is it to go to a video, scroll down for the comments and see a series of people who have just shared the post on Google+?

To be fair, the ones who share it with no text are sent to the very bottom of the comments lists by Google’s algorithm, but let’s be clear, introductory text from a user sharing a post to their social network is hugely different to a genuine comment.

As already mentioned – it’s a fine line you tread.

Last month Google announced simpler authorship rules for Google+, removing profile photos in search results. This could be seen as a further extension of this anonymity, but it’s not the only thing that was anonymous, if Google I/O was anything to go by, as Plus barely got a mention.

The overall consensus among the media and commenters is of happiness and relief, but what’s your view?

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