Starting today, Facebook will quietly "poke" users who have many subscribers, and ask them to verify their identity with a government-issued photo ID. After doing so, such famous Facebookers can drop in an "alternate name" which will be displayed in parenthesis next to their real name.
Verifying accounts can be helpful for artists and others who perform under one name, and want to share their alter-ego name - think Nicki Minaj's alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. Nicki's real name is actually Onika Tanya Maraj - is that something she would want to share with fans? And for journalists like ThinkProgress' Matt Yglesias, who use their real name as byline (Yglesias has 3738 Facebook friends and 10,203 subscribers), there is apparently no point to verifying a Facebook account. Or is there?
Users who verify their accounts will receive higher priority in Facebook's "People to Subscribe to" suggestions box. This serves as another way to keep important figures on Facebook, at a time when interest graph-driven social network Pinterest is ramping up.
Of course, this doesn't really divert from Facebook's real name policy, which it outlines here. Users still have to register with their real names. For the not-so-Facebook famous people, note that Facebook does currently recognize "alternate" names, such as nicknames or maiden names. But of course, that is completely different from perceived or real pseudonyms or alter-ego identities.
Did someone at Facebook finally started listening to what 4chan's Chris Poole said at last year's Web 2.0 - that we are not mirrors, we are prisms, and Facebook is doing identity wrong. That or Facebook just realized that while many people have alter-egos/identities, if Facebook changes the rules for perceived Facebook famous people, perhaps one day regular users will get the same benefit. But that surely won't happen for awhile, anyway.
Here's the official word from a Facebook spokesperson:
We are rolling out a minor update to our Subscribe feature. Starting today, we'll begin testing a verification process for people with a large number of subscribers. ?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 they want to connect to.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.