In a dramatic turnaround from policy created — and enforced — three years ago, Google has now reversed its "real names" policy. Users can now use any name they want across Google services.
The company announced, "there are no more restrictions on what name you can use."
A post Tuesday afternoon on Google's own Plus account apologized for the policy, saying:
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.
(...) Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.
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.
For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be.
Thank you for expressing your opinions so passionately, and thanks for continuing to make Google+ the thoughtful community that it is.
The change is a huge surprise after three years of user dissatisfaction, anger, and even fear of being outed by a social media giant known for being unresponsive to its users.
It's even more surprising after years of digging in its heels on the topic of "real names" -- to the point of dramatically breaking user trust. A petition from upset YouTube commenters over the policy reached over 350,000 signatures this year and appeared to fall on deaf ears.
Not long after Google launched Plus, it staked its citizens ability to participate in the social network and ancillary Google services on whether or not Google thought its users were operating in Plus under their “real names.”
Ex-Google employees were deleted. Writers, musicians, programmers and more were deleted. Editing your name raised suspicion and still risks getting you flagged.
Google+ did not warn users before suspending user accounts. Some people reported being locked out of all Google services, including docs and Gmail.
Google+ remained silent while Nymwars raged through the headlines — until the search giant said it would allow "alternate names" — which was incorrectly reported (at first) as if Google had begin to allow pseudonyms. This was shown to be untrue when Google told ZDNet that "nicknames" had to be proven with your real name and government ID.
In the background, Google+ began "unifying" people's identities (combining its background matching of users names and profiles) in Android address books.