Google is currently deactivating numerous accounts on Google+ since they claim that those accounts aren’t using real names. In a conversation Robert Scoble had with Vic Gundotra acknowledged that Google has made mistakes in its first pass with Google+. But he explained that the requirement to use real names is an attempt to set a positive tone, “like when a restaurant doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.” Or as Vic elaborates further:
“it is about having common names and removing people who spell their names in weird ways, like using upside-down characters, or who are using obviously fake names, like ‘god’ or worse.”
And that is exactly the issue: since the issue with common names, is that common isn’t that common. And what is a common name and what is a real name? Google cannot worry about that, since they have no means to enforce it. Face it: they have no reference on what your real name is. The only thing they have is an assumption on what they think a common or real name is.
Facebook could do it
When Facebook started back in the days they had a very good reference to real names: your .edu email address. That was guaranteed to contain your real name and therefore easy to enforce (only if you had an .edu email address you could join).
Google doesn’t have such a mechanism, plus Google has the feeling they are the ones that can decide what is a common name. Leaving people who are better known by their nickname with a deactivated account. People with a real identity that is directly connected to such a name such as Skud and epredator. It is identity that matters, not the real name, since real names may vary depending on the context a person is in.
What’s my name
My real name, given by my parents when I was born is Henricus Geraldinus Marinus Mans, however my forename given to me by my parent for for every day use is Rick (which is a lot easier to write down :)). However what is now my common name according to Google? Is that Rick Mans, is that Henricus Mans? Can I use rickmans, which is my nickname nearly everywhere around the web. No way Google knows what is right for me, they have a lot of information about me, but they don’t have my birth certificate, nor my id, they have just the information I provide them.
I am sure Google is not telling Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta that is not appropriate to use Lady Gaga. Or that even though James Brian Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior he should stick with the initial version of his names. Or that Laurence Tureaud should not name himself Mr. T, even though he changed his name. And what about Raymond Joseph Teller who changed his name in just Teller, would Google allow that, that isn’t really common to not have first ánd last name. Or what about the kid of the Israeli couple that was named Like?
Google cannot solve this
Google won’t solve this issue, because they don’t have the information about your names and what common names are. And since they cannot solve it, they shouldn’t bother to do so. The only thing they do show now, is showing they still don’t understand what people do, they have hard time to grasp the social part. Not everybody wants or can use the first and last name that are on his’ or her’s birth certificate.
If Google wants to something with this then Google should just make sure that the identity matches, that is something they can do, since there is likely to be enough context about most people around the web to provide enough information about somebody’s identity. And even that validation is not that important, since most people can do it themselves and don’t need Google for that.
Google shouldn’t assume that they know what a common name is, since common isn’t that common and this one of the very few things Google doesn’t have enough data about to know what is common.