Read Kee Hinckley's terrific essay on why pseudonymity matters. Inspired by the Google+ nymwars debate, but will be a valuable and viable set of observations long after this internet-storm has passed. Snip:
"Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don't want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self."
That quote is from Google's own policy blog. The question isn't whether Google gets it. The question is why on earth they thought that wasn't a useful feature of a social network.
Here lies the huge irony in this discussion. Persistent pseudonyms aren't ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are. You can finally talk about what you really believe; your real politics, your real problems, your real sexuality, your real family, your real self. Much of the support for "real names" comes from people who don't want to hear about controversy, but controversy is only a small part of the need for pseudonyms. For most of us, it's simply the desire to be able to talk openly about the things that matter to every one of us who uses the Internet. The desire to be judged—not by our birth, not by our sex, and not by who we work for—but by what we say.
(Via Bruce Schnieier)