Dating site OKCupid is trading its user pseudonyms for a real-name policy. The company explained its decision in a blog post today, saying that OKCupid handles are “a pain to come up with and a pain to remember.” The change starts with a test group, then rolls out to everyone by the end of 2017. “Like the recent goodbye we said to AIM screen names, it’s time to keep up with the times,” the post says. “We hope that you can instead use your profile to give people an insight into your interests, rather than a made-up monicker.”
Users will need to update their profile with real names, although OKCupid doesn’t say anything about verifying identities, and the signup page currently only asks for a first name. You just can’t go by “Britney__Tears,” “DaddyzPrincess29,” or “Bread_Time,” to name a few (lightly modified) usernames it listed. In a statement to The Verge, a spokesperson said that a name requires at least two letters, with no numbers, symbols, or emojis, and that there’s a list of banned words that won’t qualify. But it’s not requiring legal names — “for instance, if your legal name is Elizabeth but everyone calls you Liz or Ellie, we're not going to not allow this.”
Still, some users are unsurprisingly upset. A few recall meeting people specifically because they had interesting usernames, and others worry that their unusual first names will expose their identity, making them vulnerable to stalking or harassment. One person says they just entered their old username as their first name. OKCupid seems likely to frown on that practice, but it seems plausible that plenty of people will use fake first names of some sort, unless it starts requiring a link to a Facebook profile.
Using real first names is standard on newer dating sites like Tinder. But unlike Tinder, OKCupid encourages long profiles full of intimate details, including candid answers to questions about sex and politics. Users might not feel comfortable sharing that information under a real name, especially if they’ve taken other steps to make themselves unsearchable, like using profile pictures that aren’t on other social media profiles.
OKCupid says it expects that the site won’t lose that openness. “Normally when people introduce themselves via messaging they say for example, ‘hi, i'm Sean,’ instead of ‘hi, I'm sadclown4eva,’” the spokesperson says. “Also we are only asking people for first names only, not their last names, so this is an added level of protection.” Even so, the comparison to AIM is apt — whether or not it turns out to be good for business, OKCupid is retiring another little part of the old web.
Update 12:15PM: Added statement from OKCupid.