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Facebook opens the floodgates to vanity URLs [Updated]

June 9, 2009 |  9:34 pm

Facebook Logo Want to claim www.facebook.com/robertdeniro? Fuhgeddaboutit!

Right now, most Facebook profile pages are given a url with a string of non-sensical numbers and letters, such as www.facebook.com/home.php?id=8756770&ref=name. On the other hand, if you want your own name as part of the company's URL, start flexing your fingers (mine, for example, could be www.facebook.com/alexpham). At 9:01 PM (Pacific Time) this Friday, June 12, the social network is letting each Facebook user sign up for one "vanity url" by going to www.facebook.com/username/.

Here are the rules:

  1. The username must be at least five characters long and be alphanumeric (A to Z, 0 to 9).
  2. Offensive terms and variations of offensive terms will be blocked.
  3. Names of celebrities and trademarked terms will also be blocked.
  4. User names cannot be changed or transferred to another user after they have been assigned.
  5. The first one to claim a user name wins.

Why do this? Facebook spokesman Larry Yu said the fast-growing network, which has 200 million users who have returned to their accounts at least once in the last 30 days, is trying to foster a "real name culture." In other words, people will be more comfortable in an online social network if they believe the other members are who they say they are.

"It also creates a level of accountability," Yu said. Users are less likely to behave badly if their actions can be traced back to their real-world identities.

It's also easier for users to promote. Imagine putting www.facebook.com/home.php?id=8756770&ref=name on a business card. So if you use Facebook to promote your business or group, you might prefer to a link that contains your name, for instance www.facebook.com/clinteastwood.

That is, if you're feeling lucky. Well, do you?

Updated 9:46 a.m. Thursday, June 11: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect date for letting Facebook subscribers choose a username. It is Friday, June 12, not June 13.

-- Alex Pham

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