Newspapers went on the Web in the 1980s and 90s as HTML versions of the inky originals. Publishers decided that “going interactive” meant allowing readers to post comments on articles and columns. Editors had heard from habitués of The Well, bulletinboards, and chat rooms that nicknames were de rigueur, and use of real names inhibited frankness. They acted accordingly and, after the predictable gush of obscenity, profanity, and racism, some newspapers decided to forgo reader comments.
Other papers must have decided that this segment of online readership was a valuable asset, worthy of promotion on their websites. Some publishers objected to unpaid commercial speech, and demanded that commenters register with email addresses in an attempt to avoid spam, but kept the “tradition” of pseudonyms. Anonymous comments were locked in.