Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vanity URLs Come to Facebook...

Facebook is voluntarily creating a major headache for itself. This Saturday, June 13th, at 12:01am, Facebook is giving its 200 million users the option of creating a vanity URL for themselves. In plain English, this means that your home page web address will be transformed from its current ugliness into something that can have meaning, like your name...



Personally, I plan on scooping up http://www.facebook.com/rdomanski.

But while this may seem like a nice little feature, here's the potential headache. Vanity URLs a great for people who care about things like "branding strategies" and "search engine optimization", however, they're not so rosy for others.

A number of Facebook protest groups have already formed. They represent users with privacy concerns, like not necessarily wanting their profiles to be more easily found by co-workers and mild acquaintances. Most likely, these folks will register a Vanity URL anyway to protect themselves and keep it private, although this will lead to a problem where lots of in-demand URLs are taken, but not used (in a practical sense).

Which brings up another problematic issue: cybersquatting. Sheisters have long since adopted the practice of squatting on URLs with people's names (remember "www.suricruise.com"?) and then selling the URL back to the should-be owner for a marked-up price. Welcome to Facebook, guys! These people are awful and have been trying to extort money from me for years in my pursuit of acquiring the "Domanski.com" domain name. As Ben Parr describes, "The inevitable result will be an online gold rush for common names, key phrases, and brand names. We can imagine users stealing the brand names of rivals [or frienemies] just to keep it out of their hands".

Expect the resulting fist-fights to follow in a blog post next week.

Ultimately, most Facebook users will welcome the Vanity URLs because it's a cute little thing to have (and because most people unwittingly do care about branding their cyber-identity without realizing it anyway). And there's nothing wrong with that. It was just nice to not have to deal with these headaches up to this point.
  

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