OMG They Know My Real ID
The new feature being released by Blizzard today in their latest World of Warcraft patch that is causing the most stir is Real ID. Real ID is a new layer of identify utilizing someone’s email address and name to be shared with other friends to be able to communicate cross faction, server, and eventually cross game (Starcraft 2, Diablo 3).
It will be tightly integrated with your existing friends list while providing extra level to your social gaming experience. So you get to chat with your friends no matter where they are, and your Real ID friends list will travel with you from Blizzard game to Blizzard game, since they all sit on top of the new Battle.net 2.0 platform, sounds awesome right? Well for some maybe, others see it as a security and privacy nightmare. So which one is it?
So to understand Real ID we need to look at how its going to work. Inside World of Warcraft you will be able to add a new friend either via the old method, or through the new Real ID method. In order to add a friend via Real ID you will need to know that person’s email address.
After you go to add a friend via Real ID, the person you are adding needs to approve your request, this will happen via pop-up and also on your pending tab.
Only after you approve their request will they then show up in your friends list utilizing their real name (First and Last name). Once in game, you will see the character name next to their name, along with an icon of the game they are playing. You will also get pop-ups when someone logs on, even if they aren’t on your server or game.
Also once you add someone, they are there in your friends list cross game. So being in Starcraft 2 you will see your friends playing World of Warcraft (later on Diablo 3) and you can broadcast a message to all your Real ID.
All of these things are mimicking existing functionality in many social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The one feature of Real ID that really gets folks heated it seems is the Friends of Friends feature. The idea is that if you are friends with someone via Real ID, that person’s friends will be able to see your name, and from there ask to be your friend.
Most are claiming that they don’t want friends of friends to see their name, but if you think about it, this is no different than how Facebook works. You have a friend, and you see their friends posting on their wall posts, and think hey I want to add John Smith to my friends he seems like a cool person. Same thing here applies. Also the friends of friends feature will in no way show your email address, only your name.
Also another very important fact with this, is that this system is completely voluntary. In no way are you required to use the Real ID system, but if you don’t you do not get to talk cross faction, game, etc.
Could Blizzard implement additional levels of privacy and say do not allow friend of friends, sure they could. Could Blizzard have implemented a separate ID system that doesn’t use your email address? Probably, but I have to believe that Blizzard would not implement a system that would expose your email and open your account to security concerns. But in the end, if you are concerned regarding security, get an authenticator. That will solve 99% of the issue of people accessing your account unbeknown to you.
Personally, the Real ID system is great, it will let me keep in touch with guildies who have moved to the west coast, and subsequently are now on west coast servers. It will let me contact my buddy when he is playing Starcraft 2, that I need him to run a dungeon with me. It will let me broadcast to those who are playing Starcraft 2 who were on raid overflow that we have a dps spot open up. It will let me talk to friends I have made from past Blizzcons, Twitter, Facebook etc while still in game even if they are not on my server.
I think most of the privacy concerns and security concerns are coming from the vocal minority. And if folks are really that concerned with using their real name to talk to friends, then don’t use the system, after all its voluntary.