- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Activision Blizzard Inc.’s move to require people to use their real names if they want to post messages in online forums for games is the latest sign that online anonymity is falling out of favor with many companies.

The upcoming change has upset many gamers who prize anonymity and don’t necessarily want their gamer personas associated with their real identities.

Blizzard, the maker of “World of Warcraft,” said Tuesday that the new rule will go into effect later this month. It will apply first to forums about the highly anticipated “StarCraft II,” out July 27; other games are to follow.

Blizzard hopes that making people use their real names will cut down on nasty behavior in the forums and create a more positive environment. Players will have the option _ but not a requirement _ to display the name of their main game character alongside their real name.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Blizzard is the latest company to require real identities. But he added businesses have “a lot of freedom” in doing so.

Facebook, the world’s most popular online social network, asks users to sign up with their real names. The company tries to delete fake profiles it comes across. A growing number of blogs and news sites are also abandoning anonymity. The Buffalo News said last month it will start requiring commenters on its website to give their real names and the towns they live in, just as they would do in a printed letter to the editor.

Online games are among the last truly anonymous frontiers. As such, Rotenberg called Blizzard’s decision a “bit of a sad day” in the world of gaming.

“Part of the fun of the online gaming would was the sense that you could construct a character different form who you were in the real world,” he said.

“World of Warcraft” has more than 11.5 million subscribers who pay monthly fees to play the game worldwide.

_ Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer

___

Study: US mobile Web use growing, but still low

NEW YORK (AP) _ When it comes to accessing the Web over mobile devices, Americans are far behind their Internet-connected counterparts in Japan, South Korea and parts of Europe.

“We are a third-world country where mobile is concerned. The rest of the world is using mobile phones underground, to pay for a parking space blocks away, to buy a Coke from a vending machine,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for Digital Future at the University of Southern California. “We in America are still having trouble getting our phones to (make calls).”

But this is slowly changing. The latest survey from the Center for the Digital Future, conducted last year, found that 25 percent of U.S. Internet users went online using their cell phones. That is up from 16 percent in 2008 and 5 percent in 2002.

“The mobile phone is the single most valuable device in people’s lives,” Cole said. “It’s becoming a device you use for virtually everything.”

On average, people who go online using their cell phones did so for about 2.5 hours a week in 2009, up from 1.7 hours a year earlier. For most, this means getting small spurts of information, such as getting directions or checking who won a sports game, Cole said.

A separate study, from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, backs those findings. It found that 40 percent of U.S. adults used a mobile device to surf the Web, send e-mail or participate in instant messaging. Those figures from May are up from 32 percent in 2009.

And more people reported taking photos, playing games and listening to music on their mobile devices compared with a year earlier, the Pew survey found.

Overall, Internet use continues to grow. Among other findings in USC’s report, which is scheduled for release later this month:

_ Americans reported spending more time on the Internet. In 2009, time spent online averaged 19 hours a week, up from 9.4 hours in 2000.

_ More people are online than ever. In 2009, 82 percent of Americans said they use the Internet, up from 67 in 2000.

_ 18 percent of Internet users said they stopped subscribing to the print edition of a magazine or newspaper because they can get the same content online.

_ Not surprisingly, texting is most popular among young people: cell phone users under 18 sent an average of 81 text messages each day. This is up from 51 in 2008. Counting all age groups, texters sent an average of 38 messages a day, up from 23 a year earlier.

USC’s telephone survey of 1,981 Americans over 12 was conducted in April 2009 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. Pew’s survey of 2,252 U.S. adults, conducted in May, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

_ Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer

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