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Google to revise Google+ nickname policy

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Google is quickly working to revise its controversial policy that users of Google+ use their real names on the social network, according to a post by Google+ vice president Bradley Horowitz, who says that changes will arrive in “a matter of weeks.”

“We’ve noticed that many violations of the Google+ common name policy were in fact well-intentioned and inadvertent and for these users our process can be frustrating and disappointing,” wrote Horowitz on Google+. “So we’re currently making a number of improvements to this process – specifically regarding how we notify these users that they’re not in compliance with Google+ policies and how we communicate the remedies available to them.”

As Horowitz notes, these changes to Google+ policy include: warning users before their accounts are suspended, and giving them “a chance to correct their name in advance of any suspension;” revising the sign-up process to “reduce the likelihood” that users violate the policy in the first place; adding an “Other names” section to Google+ profiles, so users can list the alternate names they go by; enabling “employment,” “occupation” and “education” fields to appear when members with permission to view these details mouse-over users’ names, which “also helps other users find and identify you.”

Horowitz’s statement comes after Google sparked an uproar this weekend for deleting the accounts of Google+ members without warning or explanation. Turns out, the reason was that these users had used names other than their real names (including nicknames, maiden names, pseudonyms, etc) as their usernames on Google+, a violation of the social network’s policy.

Google vice president Vic Gundotra, who heads up the company social initiatives, explained on Google+ that the reason for the real-name requirement is to establish a positive tone for the network, “”like when a restaurant doesn’t allow people who aren’t wearing shirts to enter.” He added that rule isn’t about real names, per se, but is instead “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.”

It’s important to remember that Google+ is still in invite-only testing mode, so missteps and changes are to be expected — in fact, that’s the entire point of a test mode. As Horowitz notes, the “dialog” between users and those at Google tasked with improving Google+ “will continue for a long time.” So don’t be surprised when similar gaffes pop up again and again.

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