Google+ name policy 'frustrating,' Google confesses

The search giant's Google+ product VP unveils changes designed to help users irked by the requirement that use only their real names in their profiles.

Google has responded to the many people upset over its Google+ profile name restrictions by tweaking the controversial policy.

In a Google+ post published late yesterday, Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product for Google+, acknowledged that many of the violations from users of the Google+ name policy were "well-intentioned and inadvertent" and that for these people, the process can be "frustrating and disappointing."

At the same time that Google+ has captured 20 million members in just a few weeks, many have complained about the site's requirement that they must use their real names in their profiles, rather than nicknames or pseudonyms. Many have also seen their accounts automatically suspended over such policy violations.

Horowitz noted that Google has read the user feedback to another post about the naming policy that appeared yesterday. In a conversation with tech blogger Robert Scoble, Google's senior vice president of social, Vic Gundotra, admitted that Google had made some missteps with the policy but tried to explain the reasons behind the naming requirement.

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Responding to the feedback and the policy itself, Horowitz said Google is making a number of "improvements" to the process:

First, people who violate the policy will no longer see their profiles automatically suspended and will instead receive a warning and be given a chance to adjust their name. Google has provided a Web page explaining how users can edit their profile names to follow the policy's requirements. The company also promises to set better expectations as far as the next steps and timeframes for users who need to adjust their profile names.

Second, Google is aiming to improve the overall Google+ signup process to help people create profiles that won't get them into trouble later on.

Third, Google is trying to placate people who'd like to display a nickname, maiden name, or other alternative name within their profiles. Though the actual profile name will still limit you to your real name, two workarounds will be offered:

• You can add nicknames and other personal descriptions to the "Other names" section that appears when you edit your Google+ profile. Fellow members with permission to view that field can search for you based on those other names.

• The Employment, Occupation, and Education fields in your profile can appear in your Google+ hovercard for those with permission to view that information. This can also help other people more easily find you.

Beyond these two features, more changes are coming, promised Horowitz. In yesterday's post by Scoble, Gundotra said that Google is working on a way to allow pseudonyms, though it will take a while before such a feature can be rolled out.

Horowitz also took the time to try to dispel what he calls "myths" about Google+.

• Myth 1: Google doesn't care about ____. (businesses, teenagers, organizations, pseudonymous usage, disadvantaged populations, etc.)

In response, Horowitz said that Google wants to support all these different types of users, but that desiging a product for everyone isn't as easy as it sounds. He urged users not to "misconstrue" Google+ as it exists today as the final version and promised that Google will continue to improve and innovate the product.

• Myth 2: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one's entire Google account.

Horowitz acknowledged that an account violation cuts off your access to Google+, but said it doesn't affect other Google services. So even people whose Google+ account has been suspended can still tap into Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, and the rest.

"We'll keep working to get better, and we appreciate the feedback--and the passion--that Google+ has generated," he said.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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