YouTube starts asking members to use their real names

<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

The next time you try to comment on a video or upload one, YouTube will ask you if you want to drop your username and start using your real one.

The world’s most popular online video service has begun a push to move away from anonymity and become more uniform with other Google services, notably Google+, by having you use your actual name.

While you don’t have to switch to your real name, YouTube will ask you for a little explanation when you try to tell it no. First you must click a button saying “I don’t want to use my full name.” Then, you have to tell the service your reason for not switching, which could be that your channel is for a brand, organization or you can say “I’m not sure, I’ll decide later.”

If you choose to stick with your username but later change your mind, you can head to your settings under your account name on the top right corner. Once there, click “Advanced” located below your email address, and then click “Begin using my full name on YouTube.”


YouTube did not say whether or not it is possible to switch back or edit your username if you do decide to use your full name. The video service also did not say whether or not new users will be forced to use their full names or will be allowed to use pseudonyms if they’d like.

[Update, July 24, 2:37 p.m.: A spokeswoman said YouTube will let people change their usernames back if they decide to start using their full name. She also said new users can still set their YouTube name however they want. The prompt comes up only for users who have a Google+ profile.]

If you do make the switch, YouTube lets you review your content and choose which of it you still want to have associated with your account when you begin using your full name.

YouTube began asking users if they’d like to make the switch late last month, but for the most part, it seems the Internet didn’t catch wind of the change. BetaBeat shed light on it Monday, pointing out that this is a move by YouTube to get away from anonymity, which fosters comments that “are a notorious cesspool of sexism, racism and vitriol." 


It will be interesting to see whether YouTube will be able to successfully change the culture of its site from an anonymous hangout to a public gathering, but the fact that, at least for now, YouTube is only suggesting the change and not forcing it is a good first step.

“This will give you more options for how your videos are seen and discovered on YouTube,” the service says on its blog. “However, we realize that using your full name isn’t for everyone. Maybe people know you by your YouTube username. Perhaps you don’t want your name publicly associated with your channel. To continue using your YouTube username, just click ‘I don’t want to use my full name’ when you see the prompt.”


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