One of the more controversial aspects of Google+ when it launched was the lack of support for nicknames, pseudonyms, or pretty much anything beyond the first name / last name structure. Now, nearly eight months after launching, Google+ is announcing its first steps towards supporting alternate names, nicknames, and pseudonyms. Bradley Horowitz, VP of Google+, said today that users would have the option this week to add a nickname, maiden name, scripted name, or any other additional name to their profiles. However, this is only an additional field and doesn't replace the standard first name / last name that's required for Google+; we presume the company will still be suspending or flagging profiles with nonstandard names.
For those out there who have created a name for themselves (online or otherwise) using an identity that doesn't match their birth name, Google has an option called "established identities." Provided you have proof of this alternate identity, Google may authorize you to post under a name other than your birth name. You'll have to convince the company that this established identity has some merit by linking to an online property with a significant following or by producing some offline media proving this identity can be confirmed. Someone like Bono or Lady Gaga shouldn't have an issue, but the goofy name you used on your old MySpace page probably won't be sufficient proof for Google to let you use something other than your real name.
If you're still not satisfied with these changes, take heart — Horowitz says that today's changes are just a "small step towards improving the ways in which you can communicate your identity on Google+." For the most part, the company sees this as a fairly minor problem, with only 0.1 percent of users submitting naming appeals when signing up. We'll see how Google continues to take user feedback into account as it continues to refine identities as its social network grows.