Daniel Voyager notes in his blog the latest news/rumors about Linden Lab making changes (again!) to the way avatars are named: https://danielvoyager.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/rodvik-linden-mentions-baked-plan-for-last-names-in-february-2012/
This news created a mini-flap on the forums, and a spate of messages to Rodvik Humble's profile page. People care about their names in SL, and it's not hard to see why. In SL, we can change everything about ourselves. We can be man, woman, or child, animal, vegetable, or mineral. We can change our history (or at least, what we put in our Profiles.) The one thing, the ONLY thing, that is constant about us is our name. We recognize people in SL by their names -- they are a critical factor in our SL identity, both to ourselves and to others.
Last year, Linden Lab changed the naming system. Daniel's blog post points out the differences between the old system and the current one, so I won't go into details. What I WILL say is that I think LL really mucked things up (so what else is new?) Frankly, I think ANY change to the naming system, however well crafted, is going to upset some people. But LL did us no favor by eliminating last names and giving us Display Names.
And now, once again, LL is cooking up changes to this one unchanging part of our SL existence, and once again, they are doing it without asking us what WE want. Well, that's not going to stop me, I'm going to TELL them what I want, right here.
First of all, I want better security. There is only one private piece of information required to access my account; my password. That's not enough. I would like to see LL implement a user name/password system in which both the user name and the password were completely private and used only to log into the SL website or log on to the grid.
Next, I would like to see Display Names go away. They clutter up the overhead name tags, and the chat and IM boxes. They create confusion because some people only look at User Names in their viewers, while others look only at Display Names. Thus, if we have an avatar named Sally Smith (funkyjunkie.resident), one person may say, "Hi Sally" and another, "Hi, funky!" Then they start asking each other questions like, "Who's funky?'
I would like to see last names return. I have had many, many new residents ask me, "How can I get a last name like you have?" and I feel bad to have to disappoint them. I agree with Rodvik that the old system, where people were forced to choose from a Linden-supplied list of last names, was neither user-friendly nor popular. But being forced to pick a last name that was a NAME, not a random string of numbers, provided a strong implied suggestion that one's user name should be an actual name, not some word jumble.
I think newcomers should be able to choose both a first and a last name, as long as the combination has not already been used, and that numbers and special characters should not be allowed. There should also be information at the sign up page discussing the pros and cons of using one's Real Life name.
What about people who want to change their name because they picked a really dumb one at first, or want the same last name as their partner? I think there should be a very limited ability to change one's in-world name. It should require a support ticket, and LL should charge for it...maybe $10 or $20. And somewhere, there should be a name history that people could look up to see what name(s) you held in the past. Maybe an "AKA" tab or sub-tab on the Profile.
What about the "titles conferred by the community" that Rod mentioned? Majorly dumb idea, Rod. PLEASE don't go there.
[EDITED TO ADD:]
It occurred to me after posting this that the system of having a secret user name would permit some major changes to the way accounts are handled. One user name could have, say, five in-world names (alts). They would be able to share inventory (perhaps even have only ONE inventory, associated with the user name). One's "AKA" information could show not only what previous names you'd used, but the names of your active alts. This would eliminate a LOT of confusion, guessing, and head-gaming by letting everyone know that "Lindal Kidd" and "Lynnette Weston" both have the same Real Life typist.