I recently worked on a self-care web application providing customers’ bills online and many of the items on the list of Falsehoods Developers Believe About Names are familiar.

It is not just developers though – spare a thought for the Product Manager who has to justify the budget to develop all those edge cases – if a UK-style Firstname/Lastname is the base case (and the only one management thought of) then the cost of developing the data model and user stories for all the edge cases probably makes it 20 times as expensive.

The Google model sounds very restrictive and I won’t defend it, but they have a more difficult problem trying to ensure users’ names are ‘real’ than we did. Our system implemented a billing relationship, so there was a financial incentive to the biller to get their customer’s name right: if you want to legally enforce payment, you had better make sure the bill is addressed to a real person! So the customer has to provide documented evidence of name changes. Google has nothing to gain (and a lot to lose) by doing something similar.