Why Google should allow aliases for its services.

If you have read any of the big tech news sites in the past couple of days, you've probably stumbled upon a few articles that heavily criticized Google+ and the way Google 'forces' the service upon their users by integrating more and more older services with G+.

I for one, believe that integrating all the services into one big and user-friendly construct has a lot of advantages. But why do so many people hate the changes, or hate Google+ altogether?

The answer, in my opinion is: Anonymity. or to be more precise, a loss of anonymity. One of the big advantages of the internet, especially in its early days, was the feeling of anonymity that you got with most of the services, like MSN, ICQ or even youtube. The account creation setup was basically: enter username, enter email, enter password, and you're done.

Later, a lot of services demanded you to add some personal info, many times because new laws demanded them to do so. However, most of the personal info was only accessible to the owner of the service, and not to the other users. This was still fine for many people. They often didn't mind that the host of a service knew who they were, and if they did, they just entered random data. Interaction between users was largely anonymous, and if you wanted to reveal a true identity, you could do so later.

Enter Facebook

Facebook was the first universally successful service that kind of demanded you to use your real name. Technically you could still pretty much enter any name, but users had a lot of incentive to use their real one: You could be found easily by your friends around the world, or even by people who just heard your name at a café or bar once. In return, facebook gave you options to share most of you personal details only with the people you chose.

The tremendous success of facebook made that particular service a little bloated and complicated, because every new feature that had something to do with privacy wasn't exactly welcome. We all remember the amount of hatred Zuckerberg&Co. received whenever they made changes to their ToS or Privacy Policy. However, the success of facebook (and also twitter) made another big player aware of the potential of social networking.

Enter Google

-- I will exclude a look back at earlier Google social products (orkut, buzz) mainly because they never became that much of a deal globally and are irrelevant for the problem with Google+ that i will outline. --

Google Plus started and very soon became the center of attention for all of Google. Schmidt, Page, Rubin, they all agreed that it was absolutely necessary to form a great social network to compete with Facebook and feed the google servers with precious advertising data. Combining the wide array of Google's services became THE main job for Larry Page, and you can't say that he didn't do it. Many of Google's products are already firlmy integrated with Google+, and many others are to follow soon.

However, Google's complex variety of services with different ways to log in, different usernames and different levels of privacy aren't easy to combine, and we are able to witness a lot of backlash with every new feature. This, in my opinion, is caused by one decision only: The decision to use a person's real name for every Google service, even ones that weren't originally Google services (e.g. youtube) or ones that just work better without real names (possibly talk)

How about an alias system?

As i mentioned at the beginning, I think Google did the right thing to combine their services. Let's not pretend that Google didn't know that the guy who uses Gmail with his personal name and youtube with an alias wasn't the same person from the very beginning: They knew, and most of us probably didn't mind.

But the problem starts with connecting to other users: In some services, we prefer to be anonymous. Youtube is probably the best example (see my reply below if you want to know why):

No one denies that the old (pre-G+) comment system was flawed, but on the other hand, many people - including me - felt more comfortable uploading videos and commenting other people's work anonymously. Likewise, I prefer to use the google support forums with the same alias that i also use on XDA and here, rather than with my real name. Or if i share a photosphere to google maps, I'd also prefer an alias. Remember every change Google made that kind of upset you in the past months: Would you be as upset if you could use the changed service anonymously?

So, the possible solution to the controversies caused by the continuous G+ integration: An alias system.

How to do it? That's the question!

The real question that arises for me: What's the right way to do such an alias system, and how can it be implemented without harming the social interactions. Because for some stuff, using your real name is just fine, or even a necessity. In my opinion, the social aspects of Google plus should stay pretty much the same. Many other services, like youtube etc., should give you the option to display an alias instead of the real name, with a possible integration of Google plus circles (e.g. you can choose to reveal your real identity to certain circles).

If users can choose to be anonymous for certain services, it might lead to more participation and less shitstorms, therefor better acceptance of the services.

What do you guys think? Like my idea, or the way i got to it? Something wrong with my assumptions? Tell me :)