Here are the reasons. First, we don’t ask a lot of our users to watch all of the content on our site, but we do ask that people be civil in our community areas, like reviews and discussion forums. While anonymity has many benefits to society, helping to maintain a civil community online is not one of them. One way of reducing the random offensive comments and troll activity is to ask people to stand behind their words with their real names. We’re under no illusions that this is a silver bullet (a thought that occurred to me recently as I responded to a user named Fred Flintstone, though perhaps his parents really did have an interesting sense of humor), but it’s something we require moving forward.
As with many online communities, most of our users are friendly and reasonable, but the rants of a minority of loud and belligerent few can overwhelm the voices of the well-meaning majority. We’ll continue to prune the reviews and discussion forums by hand, but we can no longer scale to handle the volume of user-submitted content coming in our doors each day now.
The other reason for this change is that we envision a future where online video viewing is more social than the solitary act it tends to be today, and without gathering real names from our users it’s hard to lay the foundation for that. Even with a user’s real name and location, it’s still often hard to tell who someone that wants to be your friend actually is, as I’ve learned with some of the outstanding friend requests I’ve left untouched on Facebook for several months now. Of course, participation in all of these community offerings on Hulu, from reviews and forums to future social features, will continue to be voluntary, but we think there’s room for some groundbreaking advances in online viewing in the future and we’re laying the groundwork for that.
As part of this change, all of us at Hulu will be using our full names in all our communications with you, too. We won’t ask anything of you that we wouldn’t hold ourselves to.