Here’s an opinion piece I wrote for Ragan.com regarding the mad dash for Facebook vanity URLs:
Posted On: 6/15/2009
Facebook vanity URL: Did you get yours?
By Ari Adler
The rush to choose a personalized Facebook address was anticlimactic for some and thrilling for others
I knew that as every second ticked away until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, my level of nerdiness was growing. But I did it. I went to www.facebook.com/username and I joined the line of lemmings headed over the Facebook vanity URL cliff. When the clock ticked down to zero, I pressed continue and shouted, “Here we go!”
I’m not sure where we were going. Were we going to a place that MySpace has been for a long time with the ability for users to have vanity urls? Were we going to a place Twitter has dominated lately with people being able to find me just by putting my name at the end of an online address? Were we headed to an apocalyptic crash of servers and the resulting torrent of hateful comments directed at a company that dares to provide us with subpar customer service for a free product?
In the end, it seemed to work just fine and “Your user name has been set” appeared on the screen. A number of my Facebook friends agreed with my subsequent status update that noted the whole thing seemed anticlimactic somehow. As one person replied, “From the way people were talking about it, weren’t you expecting a ball dropping and fireworks?”
So, now, I’m the Facebook user formerly known as profile.php?id=733701081. According to Facebook, in the first 15 minutes, more than half a million people joined me on my quest to become something besides a number.
The reaction to the new feature was interesting to watch. As Facebook status updates and Twitter posts came filing in after midnight there was the expected mix of reactions. People jumped for joy over having claimed their name and were astounded at how easy it was to get what they wanted. Others were frustrated over just having missed the one they needed, or perturbed that anyone should suggest change is a good thing and wished Facebook would stop messing with them. Facebook warned people that you only get one shot at naming yourself.
It makes me wonder how many vanity URLs were chosen based on the amount of alcohol consumed since this feature went live just a couple of hours after the Stanley Cup playoffs ended. That’s bound to be someone’s hangover story to be shared for years to come.
Facebook says they made the change to “make it easier for people to find and connect with you.” I guess typing my name into the search box on Facebook was a lot of work?
Ah, but that’s not the end of it. Facebook also reports, “We expect to offer even more ways to use your Facebook username in the future.”
I suspect there are several more ways already in the works and you can bet they aren’t all about making things easier just for users but for advertisers as well. After all, vanity always comes with a price.