Will Real Names Make YouTube Friendlier?


Is the solution to flame wars, copyright protected uploads, and general poor decorum around YouTube simply a matter of introducing name tags?

That's the hope of the company that runs the video-sharing website.

Wired is reporting that Google's (GOOG) fast-growing YouTube service is starting to encourage anonymous users to begin using real names and photos from their Google+ accounts.

The strategy would definitely give a more human presence to the sea of faceless comments that build on top of popular YouTube clips. However, it's a move that may prove to be more idealistic than practical, since names and snapshots aren't verified on Google+ either. And making it happen will still probably be easier said than done.

Three reasons for the switch

Why encourage users to show identification?:

  1. Get more people on board Google+: Google is a business, and Google+ is a fledgling social networking platform. It may have had an encouraging launch last year, but it's still no Facebook (FB) in terms of users and usage. YouTube could be a Trojan horse for the online leader, taking advantage of the video-sharing site's top-dog status to introduce Google+ to the global masses. When you're serving 3 billion hours of clips every month -- for free -- it's not bad idea.

  2. Serve more targeted ads: The company's flagship business is based on generating revenue when someone clicks on appealing ads, so targeting the marketing is essential. The better that Google knows you and your surfing habits the easier it will be to serve up relevant ads.

  3. Something more sinister?: Through its first seven years YouTube has attracted countless viewer comments that are antagonistic and vile. Trolls are common, and even those who are voicing honest opinions would probably think twice about the manner in which they are doing that if their real names were tethered to the responses. Real names -- in theory -- would help clean up the site.

Challenge Accepted

Is it merely a coincidence that this move happens less than four months away from the 2012 presidential election? If you think that YouTube is a hotbed of political disputes now, just wait until the battle for the White House really heats up.

Shifting to real names may help make viewers posting comments more sensitive, just as they would be in real life.

%Gallery-155939%Then again, anyone on Facebook has seen the way that the political rhetoric on personal news feeds has been picking up from both camps anyway. Real names and snapshots won't stop opinions from clashing.

In the end, it's probably largely a move to help Google+ grow its reach.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google.

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