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Given the massive number of precedence on SO, I think it should be allowed –  Yi Jiang Aug 4 '11 at 8:32
    
@YiJiang: We're talking about 0.0003% of all SO users here, that isn't massive. I'm not necessarily against it, but it caught attention as it could be used in terms of advertising. The top users seem fine, but that makes me wonder about the others... –  Tom Wijsman Aug 4 '11 at 8:51
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Massive, as in users acquiring more than 10k rep without any trouble. There's also a good number of them, and non of them have been banned unless they start doing unsolicited advertising in their posts. Still, it would be good to get some opinion on this –  Yi Jiang Aug 4 '11 at 8:56
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What could possibly be wrong with this? –  Cody Gray Aug 4 '11 at 9:13
    
possible duplicate of Policy on display names –  Michael Mrozek Dec 6 '11 at 15:56
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@MichaelMrozek Hm, should be the other way: while this is newer, Robert's answer is the official one. –  user149432 Dec 6 '11 at 15:57
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3 Answers

up vote 37 down vote accepted

I'm not seeing the downside.

If a user is posting good content, who cares what their user name is? If you're implying some sort of spammy-ness to the name they choose, I'm still not seeing the downside. They still have to post good content to get their name in lights. That's a net win to us!

The identity you choose is a personal thing. If someone wanted to be called (for example) "Ubuntu Fanboi", we wouldn't be having this conversation. So is a username like "AskUbuntu.com" really all that different? It's not indiscriminate advertising... it's a username; and it's not a part of the information content of this site. In short, there is no "spam" to a username.

Users have three major reasons to contribute to projects like Stack Exchange:

  • Autonomy (work on something you enjoy);
  • Mastery (be awesome at what you do);
  • and Purpose

If that purpose happens to be a bit of self-promotion, we all like to show off a bit. So, we provide two places that allow you to establish your self-identity: Your username and 'about me' profile.

If we take away that little bit of self-identity, you're also removing one of the major purpose-driven motives for using this site… and that would be a disproportionate reaction to allay some momentary irk you assign to something so inconsequential.

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Your name is your brand, whether or not it is your birth name, a stage name, a company name, or a URL.

Should people who do business under their real names be prevented from using that as their display name? Do we make you change yours if you decide to start running a business called "Tom Wij's Information Services?"

Furthermore, what's to stop me from building up a ton of rep under the Aaronaught/Aarobot name and then starting a business with that name/domain? Does the name then suddenly become taboo?

As long as a name is actually a name and doesn't represent obvious hate speech or propagandizing, and as long as they aren't actually posting spam, then it should be, and is, allowed.

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This whole answer is based on "it should be ok to use a business name as your display name", which really isn't what he asked -- he specifically mentioned URLs. Starting a business named "Aarobot" has nothing to do with it; it's if your display name is "aarobot.com" and that leads to your business that's in question –  Michael Mrozek Aug 4 '11 at 15:26
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@Michael: A URL can be a business name. Even if it isn't, are you asserting that there's some material difference between a business name and a business name with ".com" appended to it? It's not like the URL is actually follow-able - somebody would still have to either type it into the address bar or go to their user profile to follow it. –  Aarobot Aug 4 '11 at 15:28
    
I'm asserting that the difference is one is a URL and one isn't, so only one is relevant to the original question –  Michael Mrozek Aug 4 '11 at 15:31
    
@Michael: The title says "user names that represent domains", not "user names that are URLs". Your definition would include valid but phony URLs; I doubt that was the intent here. The question was about a particular form of self-promotion and the exact syntax used is pretty much irrelevant. –  Aarobot Aug 4 '11 at 15:53
    
"Aarobot" are "Tom Wij" are not domains. We're really having this argument? He searched for ".com", I think the intent was pretty clear –  Michael Mrozek Aug 4 '11 at 15:55
    
@Michael: Sure, they're not domains now. That was the whole point of my answer. He searched for ".com" because that was the easiest way to pick out the obvious promotional names. I agree: We're really having this argument? Enough pedantry please. –  Aarobot Aug 4 '11 at 16:07
    
They're not domains ever; "Google" isn't a domain either, and even if it was, he clearly meant display names like "google.com", not any display name that happens to be the name of a company –  Michael Mrozek Aug 4 '11 at 16:09
    
@Michael: Yawn. I'll let him speak for himself, thanks. –  Aarobot Aug 4 '11 at 16:11
    
My fault, it's indeed ambiguous. I meant URLs. But now I see that my question would also apply to names like My Company Inc. and other names where it's obvious to see that it's a business. Anyhow, I was just wondering what the policy was on them because signatures and disclosed affiliations aren't allowed, I think you all have a good point and that we should handle them on a case-by-case basis. –  Tom Wijsman Aug 4 '11 at 16:31
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The obvious concern is spam, which I think it quite reasonable since we don't allow signatures nor disclosing affiliations except when promoting a product. After all, if you can't post a link or company name at the bottom of your posts, why should you be able to put one in your username which appears at the bottom of each post?

You could argue that the latter case is ok because there was going to be a username displayed anyway, so it's not adding any clutter, but it can still feel pretty spammy.

However, I haven't really noticed it being a problem so far, so I think it can be handled on a case-by-case basis for now. Even though allowing them seems to be inconsistent with the existing anti-spam policies, it doesn't look like it's something worth worrying about right now. It seems like it could be impractical to enforce across the board as well. If you see one that looks really spamming you can post about that specific username here on meta and see what people think (not sure if flagging for moderator would do any good). In particular, if it's a website for something not suitable for all audiences, the team may want to do something about it, but that's probably true whether the username is a website or not.

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not allowing signatures is not about self-promotion (which the link you give says is fine on user pages) but is about clutter on the answers. the second link you provide talks about (in the accepted most upvoted answer) clutter, and again says that promotion is fine on user pages. –  DanBeale Sep 13 '11 at 8:57
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