Facebook, following the lead of Twitter and Google+, is verifying user accounts and allowing for pseudonyms.
But the verification and policy change on nicknames -- Facebook has previously mandated that users use their legal names -- won't be available to the general public. Instead, verified accounts are by invitation only and, for now, those invitations will go to celebrities and to users with a large number of subscribers.
In an statement emailed to The Times on Thursday, Facebook described the move as "a minor update" to its Subscribe feature.
"Starting today, we'll begin testing a verification process for people with a large number of subscribers," Facebook said. "The new process enables people to verify their identities by submitting a government issued ID. Once verified, they'll also have the option to more prominently display an alternate name (nickname, maiden name, byline, etc.) on their timelines in addition to their real name.
"This update makes it even easier for subscribers to find and keep up with journalists, celebrities and other public figures."
For those who get the invitation and display their pseudonym, their nicknames or stage names, on their Facebook pages, the sign-up process remains the same -- you still only can sign up for Facebook using your legal name.
For those who receive the invitation to be verified and get the option to display a pseudonym, nickname or stage name, Facebook will use their legal name to verify the account.
The changes, which were first reported by the news site TechCrunch, are being made in large part to help Facebook's subscription feature grow as the world's largest social network continues to compete with rivals such as Twitter and Google+.
Subscribing to a user on Facebook causes that user’s public Facebook status, link, video, photo and app updates to show up in subscribers’ News Feeds. Facebook has encouraged people to ditch brand pages as a way to promote themselves individually and instead to open up their personal accounts to subscribers.
Verified accounts will show up more prominently in searches on Facebook and on the site's "suggested subscriptions" list, which will enable celebrities to gain a following without having to be "friends" with each follower.
However, unlike Twitter and Google+, Facebook is not adding a verification icon to indicate to other users that an account has been verified.