Facebook is about to start allowing prominent public figures to verify their accounts and display a preferred pseudonym instead of their birth name. Starting tomorrow, Facebook will start notifying some of its users, notably those with many subscribers, that they can verify their identity by submitting a government-issued photo ID. They will then be given the option to enter an "alternate name" that can be used to find them through search and that can be displayed next to their real name in parentheses or simply replace their real name (birth names will still be shown on the user's profile), according to TechCrunch.
Facebook will manually approve alternative names to make sure individuals are really the celebrities, politicians, journalists, and so on they claim they are. Those with verified accounts will also gain more prominent placement in Facebook's "People To Subscribe To" suggestions.
It's important to note how verified accounts work with Facebook's real name policy, which has always stated you must use your birth name on the social network. On the one hand, verified accounts allow more than just the nick names allowed previously, since verified accounts allow pseudonyms that can replace your real name on the service, while nick names are just attached to your name. On the other hand, the same rules still apply since if anyone can still go ahead and check a celebrity's real name.
Five months ago, Facebook announced Subscriptions, an optional feature that lets you control what types of stories you get from your friends and non-friends in your News Feed. Subscriptions are meant to help you keep up to date with people you're not friends with.
In other words, these are one-way friendships for subscribing to a public figure, celebrity, politician, journalist, or anyone else who wants to post public updates via their Facebook profile. It benefits both parties: the subscriber (could be you), who wants to use Facebook to receive a person's updates, as well as the public figure (also could be you), who wants to reach their audience on Facebook without having a separate Page. Two months ago, the company pushed out the Subscribe button to the whole Web, letting you subscribe to a person's content when you're not on Facebook, like a news website, blog, and so on.
Facebook is trying to get as many celebrities as it can onboard, but I suspect many don't want to share their real name on the social network. Their pseudonym is part of their brand, and so Facebook is being forced to offer this new feature so that it can coax them to opening up their profile to the public and build their subscriber count.
This move is also an attempt to mitigate the potential problem of impostors and scammers abusing other people's names on Facebook, which is already a big issue even without the ability to use pseudonyms. It also means Facebook is pointing yet another gun at Twitter, which allows you to use any name you want and is very popular among celebrities.
- Facebook launches Subscriptions, similar to Twitter following
- Facebook now lets you update Twitter
- Facebook launches Subscribe button for websites
- Facebook: 1000s of journalists are already using Subscribe
- Mark Zuckerberg passes 10 million subscribers on Facebook
- The rich flock to Facebook, don't bother with Twitter