Google+ does not want to allow pseudonyms. That is unfair and entrepreneurially wrong finds Kai Biermann. Self-chosen terms are better networked than real names.
During my studies, I had a friend named Richard. We played pool or chess or talked about books. One day I called him at home. “Hi, this is Kai. I would like to speak to Richard.” “Who do you want to speak to?” The voice sounded like a mother; I improvised, “uh, your son.” “Oh, Holger, just a moment, I’ll get him.”
Holger didn’t like his name; Richard was his pseudonym. Google doesn’t wish to have such pseudonyms in its network Google+ and threatens to delete any accounts that are set up under false names.
It didn’t disturb me, not before I knew Holger and also not after. I was interested in the person; he was not defined by his name. When I later began to hang out in online game forums and to spend my nights with people who called themselves “Hastator,” “Nelttakh” or “Mabuse,” I also had no problem with that. Although it was clear to me that these were not their birth names.
Our world is full of pseudonyms. Maria Callas, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe — the list is endless. Also, that Lady Gaga is not her real name is clear to all. For popes, renaming belongs to the protocol, and kings are even satisfied with a numbered first name.
Pseudonyms are an attempt to protect oneself. They separate the public from the private life; therefore, well-known personalities get them, as do many people who move around the web.
Thanks to a pseudonym, I can have many critics, admirers, fans and opponents, and in spite of that live blithely in my apartment without having to fear that 300 people will suddenly stand in front of my door and want to tell me their opinion. I can collect teddy bears and be considered an expert in circles of teddy bear collectors without worrying that my colleagues in commando Special Forces will laugh at me.
This protective function is also not foreign to Google. In February 2011, Alma Whitten, Google’s director of Privacy, wrote in a blog entry that her company supports anonymous as well as pseudonymous use of “our services.” After all, everyone has the freedom to be who he wants to be on the web. Above all, identity is important, wrote Whitten.
This centuries-old cultural technique of the self-selected identity is now supposed to be a problem? That is not only unfair to the normal Internet user, but also denies him that which is a matter of course for artists. It is also an entrepreneurial mistake.
Names should make us recognizable, unique. Of course, there are people who use their birth names in forums and debates and have parlayed them into trademarks, but there are not too many Meiers among them.
On the other hand, I recognize many people whom I encounter on the Internet only by their network names. If suddenly a Nicole stands across from me, although to me she actually is named “antischokke,” I have no use for her real name.
Google+ wants to earn money by collecting assessable advertising-relevant profiles that are as exact as possible. Of what use to companies is the information that a profile belongs to Michael Meier if no one knows this Meier by his real name, and he does not network with this name? Actually, it would be in Google’s best interests that users register with their pseudonyms, because, with their self-chosen names, they leave behind much more data in the network that Google could evaluate and use.
Incidentally, pseudonyms are often more unmistakable than our birth names, even those like the readily cited “Biene156.” After all, no one at the Bureau of Vital Statistics checks to see if there is already a Michael Meier and then says, “The name is no longer available, please enter another.”