Google appears to be working on allowing pseudonyms and pen names on Google+ that can be verified and would likely roll out this support at the same time as business names, according to a Google source in contact with a Dutch developer involved in the "nymwars."
In his Google+ post, Stephen R. van den Berg summarized the source, whom he is certain is a Google employee, as follows:
"One of the reasons it has not been rolled out yet is that there is a difference in rights between rights to carry a business name, or to carry a private name...This support was not ready yet, hence the (temporary) restriction to use personal names only, and no nyms. Quite recently support for verified accounts was added, so part of the solution is visible already."
Stephen commented that Google will likely only support pseudonyms "where it is possible to discover the real name behind it."
Google's current policy requires all Google+ members to use their real names or face suspension from its social network. LGBT and domestic violence groups have been pressuring Google to change its policy, arguing that members of their communities have legitimate reasons for using pseudonyms.
Last week, Google amended its policy to give people with alleged pseudonyms four days to comply [see our story ], but the change has not resolved the issue.
LAUNCH asked Google to confirm that pseudonyms will eventually be allowed and received this non-answer from a spokesperson: "Google Profiles are designed to be public pages on the web, which are used to help connect and find real people in the real world. By providing your common name, you will be assisting all people you know - friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances - in finding and creating a connection with the right person online."
Stephen's source indicates that CEO Larry Page is aware of the issue but may not be "properly informed" while Sergey Brin is noticeably absent from an internal debate in which many Googlers support the case for pseudonyms.
Senior VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra allegedly sees himself as the "visionary of G+ policies" in Stephen's paraphrasing and dismisses those who disagree with him as not getting it. And VP of Product Bradley Horowitz is reportedly not happy that he is tasked with making public announcements to find out later that his response was not 100% true.
The source also reported that some employees have left the company because of the issue, and that pseudonyms are a recurring topic at Friday meetings -- sometimes taking over the agenda. Even employees who do not believe Google+ should allow pseudonyms reportedly think the company is handling the debate poorly.
In response to Stephen's post, an anonymous person reporting to have "close ties to a handful" of Google employees told Stephen (who published the text here) that engineers have been fighting the internal battle far longer than the month-long public war over names.
The anonymous person also writes, "It seems that the G+ team is currently overwhelmed with technical issues of the current system -- that, combined with Vic's attitude, means that nymwars is not going to be addressed anytime soon. If engineers can scrape together 20% time to implement possible solutions and manage to convince decision-makers to let them roll out changes, we might see something."
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4:35 PM PDT Fri, Aug 19, 2011