Google+ Names: No Shirt, No Service

Google's stance on users listing their real names on Google+ continues to cause headaches on the fledgling social networking site, with a spate of account deactivations this weekend as users with non-typical names or pseudonyms found their profiles locked. According to Google VP Vic Gundotra, in a discussion with Robert Scoble, the search giant's current attitude toward names is to ensure "a positive tone gets set" such as "when a restaurant doesn't allow people who aren't wearing shirts to enter." However, he also argues that it's not solely about "real" names, and that pseudonym support is another Google+ feature in the pipeline.

In fact, Gundotra claims, Google is pushing to have common names listed rather than allowing users to register weird spellings, obviously fake names or use characters (such as "!" as an inverted "i") unnecessarily. The social chief admits that some of the first decisions the team responsible for filtering names have made have been incorrect, and promises that as well as improving on that, Google will also make communications with those affected more comprehensive.

Pseudonyms, for instance, will eventually be supported in some form – right now users can list alternative names and nicknames by which they are known, but their primary name must be their "regular" one – though there's no timetable for that to be introduced. It "will be a while" before Google+ pseudonyms are enabled, Gundotra warns.

In the meantime, high-profile victims of Google+ policies continue to stack up. iPhone Dev Team hacker MuscleNerd had his profile suspended over the weekend, while others – such as Jay Freeman, better known as "saurik" – are forced to go by names they are less well known by. Freeman suggests an alternative approach where different circles could

"One could instead imagine a true unification of "circles" with identity, allowing my college friends to go by their real name (maybe "True-dy McRealName") to people in their "family" and "close friend" circles, by a pen-name ("Tryla Marina") to other circles, and being able to fully hide their account to people they don't know at all" Jay Freeman ("saurik"; emphasis in original)

A similar system could well be implemented as Google integrates technology developed by recent acquisition Fridge. That service allowed for granular control over which names, images and other information was displayed to each group of friends and colleagues.