In some past discussions I remember several suggestions to change the "Real name" label in the core MediaWiki preferences to "Display name" or something similar. Sorry, I don't have links to all of these discussions, so I'm opening this task to allow current and open discussion.
The rationale is more or less the following:
- As it happens with a lot of websites, a MediaWiki username has some constraints: it doesn't allow certain characters, it may be restricted by anti-spoofing technologies, etc.
- A MediaWiki user name is the same in all the sites on a wiki family (CentralAuth). This gets uncomfortable when the same user wants to write the name in, e.g., Japanese in Japanese-language projects, but in English in other languages, so that people who don't know Japanese would be able to read it. This is partially solved by signatures, but signatures have the particular goal of serving as signatures—they are super-flexible, and may include dates, crazy formatting, links, etc., and they are not necessarily names.
- A user name is intended for identification with a computer program, and it's not necessarily comfortable when talking to a person, in voice or in typing, even if it's written in an alphabet that a person can read. My username, for example, is "Amire80", which is technical and internal, and I'm fine with using it on the login screen, but I prefer to be called "Amir" or "Amir Aharoni" elsewhere. I never enjoy being called "Amire" or "Amire80" in conversations with real humans, or in contexts that are supposed to be similar to conversations with humans. I'm sure that there are more people who share this feeling.
- A human-readable name is useful in many contexts. The three immediate examples I can think of are the "Welcome, USER!" string at the top of the MobileFrontend main page; the "userlink" in Flow, which currently shows the username (see T90055, which is in essence abandoned for now, but I hope it will be revived Some Day); mentioning people using Echo (especially in VE-enabled Flow writing surfaces, but hopefully in other contexts, too).
- The title "Real name" is disliked by many people, and for a good reason. Examples from the context of Phabricator can be found at T798. People may want a human-readable, customizable, and localizable name to be displayed in contexts where a human name is needed, but many don't want it to be their real-life name, and it's completely understandable.
This task is only about the last point in the above list. It's not about re-enabling the preference on Wikimedia sites, or about actually using it in Flow, MobileFrontend, Echo, or elsewhere; all these will be separate tasks, when the time is right. It does seem to me, however, that there is a consensus that "Real name" is not a good label. It can be easily changed to "Display name", so let's do it already.