One of the major differences between Facebook and Twitter is that the former is built on real names and identities. However, that’s all about to change.

The social network quietly announced that as of today, it will allow prominent public figures to verify their accounts and opt to display a nickname instead of their birth name.

Unlike Twitter – which launched verified accounts in 2009 – Facebook won’t display any sort of badge on verified accounts. This is somewhat of an unusual decision, as there’s no way to differentiate between a verified account and a copycat.

Birth names will still appear on the individual’s About page as a way to prevent members from subscribing to the public updates of the wrong person.

Currently this is an invite-only feature – public figures with a high subscriber count will be notified and prompted to change their account. Facebook requires a government-issued photo ID or a combination of two alternate IDs, such as a birth certificate and credit card. The social network promises to delete this data after verification.

[Via: TechCrunch, Image credit: Mykl Roventine]