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When somebody changes their name I think it would be valuable for a period of time to simply mention their previous name in a tooltip while hovering over their new username in comments and answers. This avoids confusing people while reading comments with references that may be outdated, or somebody sees a name they do not recognize.

A simple "Previously, oldname" would work well to reduce confusion while a user is hovering over somebody's username. It wouldn't have to be a permanent fixture, but could be active for, say, 30 days after the fact.

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Even better: Since userids seem to be stable now1, Auto-expand user names could be implemented in comments to have automated name-updating and therefore abolish this confusion once and for all.

1 Otherwise permalinks to questions certainly wouldn't work in a consistent badge-awarding way...

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This would be tough to implement. Consider someone who's name was "foo" and it was changed to "bar". Foo might be a real word. Sure it could be done for @replies only, but it wouldn't cover all references to names. – Sam152 Sep 7 '10 at 12:21
@Sam152: True, I was only referring to @replies. But mentioning a username without an @ shouldn't (intentionally) happen often - and that would also not be covered by your feature-request when mentioned user did not participate in the discussion himself – Tobias Kienzler Sep 7 '10 at 12:29

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