Written 19 August, 2010
My readers should hop over here and take a look at the Linden Blog post about the soon-to-cme display names feature and the many resident comments.
While residents' account names (for instance, mine, which is Cheyenne Palisades) will remain detectable, they will be changed to lowercase format with a dot instead of a space, as so: cheyenne.palisades. What will appear above Avatars' heads, on the Friends list, and in Transaction History is the display name.
And what is a display name? Glad you asked. A display name is a name of one's choosing. It can be any combination of characters, including Unicode (which will allow use of language-specific characters like umlauts, acute and grave accents, and Asian and Middle Eastern characters). Maximum display name length will be 31 characters.
Display names will be useful in a number of ways: to indicate a last name of one's choosing; to have more than two names, or to have a name in one's native language. This will be handy in role play situations, and useful for partnered avatars, who can share a common last name or hyphenate their existing last names. Account names (cheyenne.palisades, remember?) will be viewable, although I believe this feature is turned off by default.
The display name will be the name by which an avatar is known in world. There will be no charge for display names, and names can be changed as often as once per week. The names will be changeable and viewable in Linden Lab's 2.x viewers and in third party viewers that choose to implement them. Users of Viewer 1.9.3 and some third-party viewers won't be able to see or select display names.
A lot of people have asked for display names, and they're all well and good, but I have some grave concerns.
First are the twin issues of constancy and accountability. Display names are by their very nature inconstant-- and we learn from the FAQ that no record is kept of past display names. Once they're changed, that's it. Whatever that avatar might have done while sporting the prior display name is wiped out. Search, for example, won't locate avatars by the name you know.
We will be able, of course, to determine people's account names, but that will generally require hovering over them with the mouse. Failing that, there will apparently be no record of who goes where and does what and in which name. When we look at our Friends list and at the friends online list on the Second Life website, we'll see only our friends' names-of-the-moment, IMs and avatar radars will show only display names, and in all probability access lists for doors and security devices will be broken.
These isssues are absolutely compounded by the fact that display names aren't unique. Anyone can change their name to anything-- including a display name used by a dozen other people, at any time. This will be devastating for creators, who will in all likelihood lose their lists of customers. For the rest of us, it will be horribly inconvenient as we try to figure out what the hell Big Badass Woolsley is doing in our Friends list. Since avatar form is easily and immediately changeable, no one will know who the hell anyone is-- unless we remain in viewer 1.93.
Amazingly, and incredibly stupidly, there will be no prohibition for using the account names of others. Thus, anyone who wanted could create a display name of Cheyenne Palsiades and pretend to be me. Only those avatars savvy enough to look at the account name would know it wasn't; those too new or too lazy to check would be fooled and quite possibly tricked into paying for merchandise they thought was mine. And if that happened, who would be blamed? Me!
It's difficult to conceive of a sentence more insulting and demeaning to Second Life's citizens than this one from the FAQ:
Can I prevent other residents from using my display name? Not generally. Display names are not meant to be unique identifiers. Instead, if you notice others are using a similar display name, feel free to change your own name.
WTF? We've worked hard for years, some of us, building the reputation of our avatars, insisting that we are people in our own right, branding ourselves, and some clown comes along and uses our name for whatever purpose AND THEY SAY WE'RE FREE TO CHANGE OUR NAMES???
We can change our display names-- which in my case will be my user name?
That's insulting beyond belief!And get this:
Are there any rules for choosing a Display Name?
When selecting a name, do not choose one that violates a celebrity's right in their name, a trademarked brand name, or intellectual property right.
Say what??? So, Linden Lab, I ask you-- the name Mary J. Blige-- that's a name that was bounced around in the comments following the Linden's post-- can't be chosen as a display name, but mine can? The name of someone most likely unassociated with Second Life is protected, but the names of your customers isn't? What are we, chopped liver? Do not we, your customers, have the intellectual property rights to our own names?
I hereby state that my name, Cheyenne Palisades, is Copyrighted and Trademarked, and anyone using it will be violating the Second Life terms of service.
It's difficult to think of anything more insulting than for Linden Lab to say the above. I'm furious at it, and at being told I'm entitled to change my name if someone stalks or harasses me or my friends by appropriating a name I've worked hard to establish and to which I have until now held exclusive rights.
Perhaps it's important to include that statement about celebrities' names-- it was clearly included at the insistence of some lawyer-- but how in the hell could the lab have missed giving the same consideration to you-- and to me! Seriously, how can the Lab's policy decisions be so shortsighted?
I have a lot of respect and admiration for Torley Linden, but since the beginning of the Viewer 2 debacle, he has shown signs of having drunk the M. Kool-Aid. Here's his video about display names.