Dear Facebook, (On Real Names)

Sort your policies around ‘names’ and ‘usernames’ out. Please. Just please fix it. Here I’ll provide a source for everything I’m about to hurl at your stupid artificial petty little system that’s aimed entirely at trying to make our data seem more ‘accurate’ and ‘valuable’ and ‘easily analysable’.

So, here’s a list of 40 Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names.

I’ll wait here while you go and peruse it.

*twiddles thumbs*

Done? Excellent. Now, let me go and grab a few screenshots, and we’ll start looking at how your system falls foul of it, and is causing me unnecessary pain.

Firstly, the Name section of the ‘General Account Settings’ screen.

FB-Name

So, here we are. Firstly, let’s click on the little ‘Learn More’ link to find out exactly what you mean by ‘real name’  (I’m hoping you won’t be falling foul of falsehoods 3,4. That wouldn’t be a good start).

Names can’t include:

  • Symbols, numbers, unusual capitalisation, repeating characters or punctuation
  • Characters from multiple languages
  • Titles of any kind (ex: professional, religious, etc)
  • Words, phrases, or nicknames in place of a middle name
  • Offensive or suggestive content of any kind

Other things to keep in mind:

  • The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, student ID, etc.
  • Nicknames can be used as a first or middle name if they’re a variation of your real first or last name (like Bob instead of Robert)
  • You can also list another name on your account (ex: maiden name, nickname, or professional name), by adding an alternate name to your Timeline
  • Only one person’s name should be listed on the account – Timelines are for individual use only
  • Pretending to be anything or anyone is not allowed

Oh. Oh. So that’s falsehoods 3 and 4 right there (One canonical name, and one full name at this point in time). You at least let us change the name, which gets you out of falsehood 1, 2, and 7; although you limit the number of changes, which puts you foul of rule 5.

For those keeping count they’ve so far fallen to falsehoods 3, 4, 5.

By specifically calling out multiple languages not being allowed, I’m going to give you a pass on falsehood 9, as I’m going to assume you’d be ok with me using a Japanese, non-Romanised name. But you call out ‘symbols’, ‘unusual capitalisation’ among other things as not OK. Would Japanese characters fall foul of this? It’s unclear. and arbitrary. Who are you to decide if capitalisation is unusual (falsehoods 12,13,16). You call out as well that you don’t allow mixing languages – I think that might possibly be violation of falsehood 10.

No titles of any kind? Even religious ones? Interesting. Titles are a kind of prefix. Falsehood 14. And for some would arguably be a large part of their identity that it could be disrespectful to not use it when communicating with them.

No numbers? Falsehood 15.

Falsehoods violated so far: 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

The Display As box offers First Middle Last, First Last, Last First. That sounds suspiciously like thinking there’s an order to peoples names. Falsehood 8.

No suggestive or offensive language? Can I find this objective list? Are you assuming that you can know what is suggestive or offensive in every single country and culture in which you operate (or allow users to select as their country from that nice drop-down list you have). Falsehood 31.

On the off chance someone does have a name that falls foul of this, then they must be a weird outlier. Falsehood 39 (Bonus points for alienating a user)

I’m going to give you a pass on falsehood 40, that people have names, as even I recognise that is a far larger battle than just facebook.

So, there we have violations of: 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 31, 39

There’s probably more there, but I’m not going to start trying to use up my limited name changes to see if you fall foul of the internationalisation related falsehoods.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

You see Facebook. You also have this nice little thing called ‘usernames’ that dictate what address a Facebook Users profile can be accessed at (facebook.com/USERNAME). Let’s take a little look shall we?

FB-Username

Oh. Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear.

Should include your real name

I can change my username once. I hereby revoke your exemption to falsehoods 1, 2 and 7. You’re also trying to ram peoples names into a URL. That’s…. probably going to end badly. I have better things to do though than waste my one username change to check if this is the case, so I’m not going to say you fall into any falsehood there.

Let’s click that little question mark icon, to see if that has any wisdom for us.

  • You can’t claim a username someone else is already using.
  • Choose a username you’ll be happy with for the long term. Usernames are not transferable and you can only change your username once.
  • Usernames can only contain alphanumeric characters (A-Z, 0-9) or a period (“.”).
  • Periods (“.”) and capitalisation don’t count as a part of a username. For example, johnsmith55, John.Smith55 and john.smith.55 are all considered the same username.
  • Usernames must be at least 5 characters long and can’t contain generic terms.
  • You must be manager-level admin to choose a username for a Page.
  • Your username must adhere to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Oh. oh dear. This is worse than I thought.

Let’s try and reconcile this shall we?

Usernames can only contain alphanumeric characters (A-Z, 0-9) or a period (“.”).

Combined with

Should include your real name

Well. That’s EVERY. SINGLE. INTERNATIONALISATION. THING. FAILED. Falsehoods 9. 10. 11. 24. 25. 26.

And, as you force everyone to use a username with their real name, that means you think that the number of duplicate names is low enough that the amount of crap people will have to add to get a unique username is low. That’s Falsehood 23.

Bang up job there facebook. A field that shouldn’t even have anything to do with someones real name single handedly fails 10 falsehoods, and that’s before I go back over the earlier ones related to the real name policy (such as offensive names).

So Facebook.

Your grand total of failures here 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 24, 25, 26 31, 39

That’s 21 failures, on a list of 40. And That’s with me being generous because I’m not wasting my precious name changes on checking out your validation.

– Sincerely,

A User Who Just Wanted A New Username So My Profile Cant Be Easily Found.

A User Who Really Wants To Get Rid Of Their ‘Legal’ Name From Facebook.

A User Who Hates You More Than Ever.