Will Real Names Make YouTube Friendlier?


Is the solution to flame wars, copyright protected uploads, and general poor decorum around YouTube simply a matter of introducing name tags?

That's the hope of the company that runs the video-sharing website.

Wired is reporting that Google's (GOOG) fast-growing YouTube service is starting to encourage anonymous users to begin using real names and photos from their Google+ accounts.

The strategy would definitely give a more human presence to the sea of faceless comments that build on top of popular YouTube clips. However, it's a move that may prove to be more idealistic than practical, since names and snapshots aren't verified on Google+ either. And making it happen will still probably be easier said than done.

Three reasons for the switch

Why encourage users to show identification?:

  1. Get more people on board Google+: Google is a business, and Google+ is a fledgling social networking platform. It may have had an encouraging launch last year, but it's still no Facebook (FB) in terms of users and usage. YouTube could be a Trojan horse for the online leader, taking advantage of the video-sharing site's top-dog status to introduce Google+ to the global masses. When you're serving 3 billion hours of clips every month -- for free -- it's not bad idea.
  2. Serve more targeted ads: The company's flagship business is based on generating revenue when someone clicks on appealing ads, so targeting the marketing is essential. The better that Google knows you and your surfing habits the easier it will be to serve up relevant ads.
  3. Something more sinister?: Through its first seven years YouTube has attracted countless viewer comments that are antagonistic and vile. Trolls are common, and even those who are voicing honest opinions would probably think twice about the manner in which they are doing that if their real names were tethered to the responses. Real names -- in theory -- would help clean up the site.

Challenge Accepted

Is it merely a coincidence that this move happens less than four months away from the 2012 presidential election? If you think that YouTube is a hotbed of political disputes now, just wait until the battle for the White House really heats up.

Shifting to real names may help make viewers posting comments more sensitive, just as they would be in real life.

Then again, anyone on Facebook has seen the way that the political rhetoric on personal news feeds has been picking up from both camps anyway. Real names and snapshots won't stop opinions from clashing.

In the end, it's probably largely a move to help Google+ grow its reach.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google.

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You mean like Hugh Mongus, Sevinich P. Niss, Jim Shorts, Mike Hunt?

July 26 2012 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andy Shick

I have my real first name on my account. My picture is me in a costume, but I have some videos of myself, so they could still see what I look like.

July 25 2012 at 10:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Once Youtube starts displaying real names, is when I delete my account and stop using it. Its none of their business, and Google is nothing but a company who's whole business is based off of spyware. Its also the very reason I will never use Google+.

One thing I have learned over the years, is to never use your real full name online.

July 24 2012 at 6:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What is the real name for youtube? How real is youtube right now? Should users demand youtube to be really real so they can track possible mingling in certain insider agenda. What is real if we can't look into multi-facets of facts, relative boundaries and languages creativities?

July 24 2012 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Headless Platter

A name is what you make with it. Pseudonymns are as real as "real names". Now, "Google" and "Yahoo!' are showing us that their ridiculous names mean they are going to try to push their ideals on how we use their services. I will find services that do it my way.

July 24 2012 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Realname enforcement is a sugar pill, because it's impossible to reliably tell whether a name is real or not. All it means is that trolls sign up under plausible-sounding names like "John Smith" instead of pwnab0y1994. (Meanwhile, people with real but implausible-sounding names are inconvenienced -- see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/04/AR2009030404159.html ; some people really ARE named "Yoda" or "Batman"!)

Speaking specifically of Google+, give http://gewalker.blogspot.com/2011/08/firsthand-examination-of-google-profile.html a read -- to summarize, Gary Walker "proves his identity" when challenged by submitting a picture of the McLovin ID from Superbad with a picture of Tucson shooter Jared Loughner Photoshopped onto it.

One more good resource explaining why "realname" policies are farcical:

And a piece by danah boyd (no relation) explaining why some people have legitimate reasons not to use their real names:

I post under my real name, by the way. But I'm a straight, middle-class white boy. I'm pretty much the poster child for privilege.

In short: YouTube's comments section will continue to be the Internet's septic tank, even if you mildly inconvenience trolls by forcing them to make up realistic-sounding fake names.

July 24 2012 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply