You may have noticed in the last couple of months that something’s different about the Internet, but you might not have been able to quite put your finger on what. Well, if you haven’t figured it out, try scrolling down to the bottom of, say, a Huffington Post (News - Alert) article, or a YouTube video. Yeah, it’s the comments.
More specifically, it’s that a growing number of websites are attempting to rein in the typical level of discourse — the bigotry, the poor spelling, liberal use of the caps lock key — found online by forcing people to use their real names. Other sites, like Popular Science, have decided to do away with comments altogether.
Unfortunately, though, there are a few issues with the assumption that anonymity is the source of all nastiness online. For starters, it’s been proven time and again that some people just aren’t deterred from bad behavior even if everyone can plainly see who they are. Take, for example, the fact that people still need to be warned to think twice about what they share on Facebook (News - Alert) since it can affect your employment.
More to the point, sites have had integrated Facebook — generally meaning non-anonymous — comment sections for quite a while now and they still get their fair share of awful comments.
Meanwhile, YouTube’s (News - Alert) Google+ integration hasn’t done much to make comments more constructive; in fact, it actually made it much easier to post spam on videos, at least initially, which many users did quite freely — using their real names. That said, YouTube’s new comment system does put more emphasis on comments from people you know, so at least it’s easier to see which of your friends behaves boorishly online.
In all seriousness, this is an interesting change in the way the Internet works as anonymity is slowly fading away — saying that this means the Web is ‘growing up’ is a bit of a stretch, though.