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Facebook Usernames: Lame or Cool?

June 16, 2009

There’s been a lot of chatter on Facebook about usernames, which were made available for registration at 12:01 a.m. ET this past Saturday. The conversation is centering around whether they’re worth the effort, or just silly. The majority of my FB friends are taking the latter position – why bother?

FB’s argument that personalized usernames will make it easier for people to find you via search engines doesn’t hold water with all of them, since it’s already easy to find people on Facebook using their name. Additionally, if your name is already taken, you have to add the dreaded goofy numbers or letters.

Some have mocked the fact that the move will make FB more like Twitter and MySpace, which have offered personalized URLs for a while. But some like this idea – if you nab a FB handle that matches your Twitter handle, it does make you easier to find and follow. So folks with a public presence, or those who are interested in building an audience or promoting themselves, will find it very logical and convenient.

At this point, roughly 6 million people have signed up, which might seem like a large number until you consider that there are currently 200 million active Facebookers out there. Still, the raw numbers are impressive: 500,000 registrations in the first 15 minutes, and rates of up to 500 registrations a second.

One item buried toward the end of this ABC News article piqued my interest, though: generic words such as “peaches” and “news” are not currently available for registration, which may indicate that FB intends to sell word-based usernames at a later date.

But according to a New York Times blog post this morning, URLs involving celebrity and product names have already gone up for auction on Assetize, a marketplace for Web domains. Facebook’s official reaction is this:

“Facebook spokesman Larry Yu said the company was looking at the emerging commerce over vanity URLs. ‘We are working through how we are going to address that. Generally speaking our policy is a strict no-transferability clause,’ he said.”

Until I read that, I really thought that the release of FB usernames would herald the birth of the FB revenue stream we’ve all been speculating about. I even developed a theory went like this: Microsoft is a FB investor, and Bing is Microsoft’s new search engine, so maybe they’ll figure out how to charge FB users to make their vanity URLs searchable on Bing.

Silly me. Why would Facebook bother to develop a revenue stream beyond the current ad-serving model when they’re still able to attract new investors? They must have some kind of genius plan up their sleeves, and I can’t wait to see what it is. In the meantime, I registered my FB URL. It matches my Twitter handle.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2009 12:36 pm

    I registered too but I don’t get it. Mostly, I just wanted to secure it before someone other than me did.

    Maybe FB was just trying to see if we were paying attention…

  2. Heidi permalink
    June 16, 2009 3:55 pm

    Good point, Shark-Fu — and talking about it counts as paying attention, regardless of whether you choose to register.

    Meanwhile, alert reader Mike Halbrook pointed me to an interesting Business Insider piece about why FB decided against auctioning URLs: They were afraid of both server overload and user backlash.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/why-facebook-turned-down-millions-to-give-away-vanity-urls-for-free-2009-6

  3. marypatanselm permalink
    June 23, 2009 9:39 am

    I bet Facebook has something deep up their sleeves. I also think Twitter – or someone waiting in the wings to buy it – has something planned. Because as of right now, and correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think Twitter makes any money.

  4. kimtrokey permalink
    July 20, 2009 10:40 am

    I like the idea of usernames…but I find it kind of scary that you can only do it once and then never change it! My name is going to change in a few months, so I am waiting until then to secure mine. It’s like a tatoo – need to think it through before making registering as princesspink or something silly like that. Great post.

  5. atncreative permalink
    September 2, 2009 8:31 am

    A key reason why Twitter and MySpace allow handles is that is gives some sense of privacy and being anonymous. This wasn’t the lead structure for FB accounts because of the way they handled friend requests and inclusion of one’s social circle. This might give them more freedom with accounts that are not direct legal names vs. usernames. So I’d say yes, they got something cooking up their sleeve.

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