Google nixes real-name policy for Google+

The company apologized for 'unnecessarily difficult experiences'

Google+ booth at Cebit 2012

Google+ booth at Cebit 2012

Google+ may attract some new -- and mysterious -- users after Google announced Tuesday it was abolishing its real-names policy for the profiles in the service.

Since its inception, Google's social network has required that people use their real names in Google+ profiles, as part of an effort to help other people find them through the service.

"You need to provide both your first and last name for your Google+ profile," the guidelines said. One could be an initial, but not both.

While that may have been a good idea for some, Google conceded Tuesday that it has also excluded people who don't want to use their real name.

Google's policy of trying to tie YouTube users' accounts to their Google+ accounts has also sparked criticism among people who want to leave YouTube comments, or otherwise use the service, more anonymously.

For those reasons and others, Google said Tuesday that on Google+ there were no longer restrictions on the names people could use.

"We know you've been calling for this change for a while," the company said in a blog post. The names policy has led to "unnecessarily difficult experiences" for some users, Google said, adding, "for this we apologize."

In online comments on the Google+ page, people applauded the change. Others said it was too little, too late, or questioned whether it would lead to more spamming or cyberbullying behind the cloak of a fake name.

"Translation: It's safe to come out and play again comment trolls," one person wrote.

To clean up YouTube comments, Google overhauled the commenting system last year, to push "better quality" comments higher up. But shortly after making the changes, Google reported an increase in spam.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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