Facebook’s Real Names Problem

tumblr_n06cmlgily1qh3465o1_500

One thing about some of the new apps that will come as a shock to anyone familiar with Facebook: Users will be able to log in anonymously. That’s a big change for Zuckerberg, who once told David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

At the time of Facebook’s founding, there was no such thing as real identity online. Facebook became the first place where people met one another as themselves, and the company was stubborn about asking users to sign in and share material with their own names. A Facebook account became a sort of passport to the rest of the Web, and with its success came new problems. No teenager wants to share insane party pics with a group of friends that may include his or her parents and teachers. And dissidents in parts of the world where speaking freely can be incriminating avoided the service in favor of alternatives such as Twitter, where real names are optional.

Former Facebook employees say identity and anonymity have always been topics of heated debate in the company. Now Zuckerberg seems eager to relax his old orthodoxies. “I don’t know if the balance has swung too far, but I definitely think we’re at the point where we don’t need to keep on only doing real identity things,” he says. “If you’re always under the pressure of real identity, I think that is somewhat of a burden.” Paper will still require a Facebook login, but Zuckerberg says the new apps might be like Instagram, which doesn’t require users to log in with Facebook credentials or share pictures with friends on the social network. “It’s definitely, I think, a little bit more balanced now 10 years later,” he says. “I think that’s good.”

-Brad Stone and Sarah Frier, in Bloomberg Businessweek, on the challenges for Facebook on its 10th anniversary. Read more about Facebook in the Longreads Archive.

***

We need your help to get to 5,000 Longreads Members.

Join Longreads now and help us keep going.

Founder of Longreads.