YouTube gently prods users to go by their real names

The online video service takes a swipe at nasty commenters and cleans up its image by encouraging users to use their real names and link to their Google+ profile.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
A Google screenshot featuring Joey Samson, formerly known as joeysam87, showing how to change from an anonymous YouTube account to a Google+ account. YouTube

YouTube thinks that maybe all those cutepuppies99 and origamiboys1981 might be ready to grow up. Google's online video platform is now giving users the option to start using their real names on its service, along with hooking up their Google Plus profile up with their YouTube channel.

"One Google-wide identity was something that proved popular with new YouTube users when we began offering it in March, so we are now extending it to existing users," YouTube software engineer John Fisher wrote in a recent blog post.

Here's more on how Fisher describes how it works:

This is your identity, so you're in the driver's seat. First off, your name. If you are currently YouTube user joeysam87, you can now appear as Joey Samson, the full name from your Google+ profile (with an actual space in the middle!), along with any photo you uploaded.

Next step, your past activity. Maybe you posted a few things way back (all those "I love you Biebs!!" comments?) that you'd rather not associate with publicly. By clicking "Review my content," you can see every video, comment or playlist you've ever posted, and decide whether you want it associated with your full name before making the change.

This will give you more options for how your videos are seen and discovered on YouTube. However, we realize that using your full name isn't for everyone. Maybe people know you by your YouTube username. Perhaps you don't want your name publicly associated with your channel. To continue using your YouTube username, just click "I don't want to use my full name" when you see the prompt.

While YouTube is offering this added feature to its users, it also behooves the service to prod people to use their real names. This video platform is notorious for having anonymous commenters leave long chains of offensive comments. According to Wired, cleaning up its image would help the service in attracting more business owners, advertisers, and filmmakers.

The integration of Google+ and YouTube has been taking place over the last few months and while some users must appreciate it, others have gotten annoyed. In May, actor Wil Wheaton ranted about Google "forcing" its social network on everyone when he tried to like a video on YouTube and instead got a prompt to join Google+. His screed was re-blogged by more than 2,300 Tumblr users.

According to YouTube, if users opt to change their anonymous username to their real name, there will be additional venues to use their full name on other Google products and services in the future. "For many YouTube users with existing Google+ profiles, you'll start seeing this option the next time you upload or comment on YouTube," Fisher wrote. "For partners, brands and organizations, you won't see this just yet." Fisher also said that the feature is only available in the U.S. for now but will be coming out internationally shortly.