“Where did the rule of anonymity online come from?” Asks Janet Daley.
Well I’ll tell you, it came from a necessity that turned into a convention and then a rule. But it’s not really about anonymity per se it’s about user names.
It started with the early internet. Many older operating systems limit user ids to 8 char, up to and including AIX 4.3 (In Oct 1997) this was a system rule. So many earlier users will have had to come up with an id that was 8 char. Like “Damocles”, in fact I started using the name Damocles on Solaris machines playing xpilots.
So that was the necessity, of course if you had a name that could be abbreviated to 8 char easily you could use that jdaley say or tchivers or ewest but jdelingpole wouldn’t work, you’d need jdelingp. But why would you have a proper name when other people had cool hip and trendy names like damocles or gadreel or gotan? And there were only about 16 million of us and we were all on different systems few were truly global and we were all techs so we liked that sort of thing.
So in that way it becomes a convention.
Fast forward and the systems allow longer names and the user community sizes grow but the convention stays and morphs slowly into a rule. Now there are more than 2 billion users. So the user names have become separate identities. Do some people use having second identities online to be idiots? Yes. Is this the reason why we use these identities? In the main, no. Should people be forced to use their real names everywhere online? Ah well that’s a whole different barrel of snakes.