Facebook to offer first-come-first-served vanity URLs

In contrast to Twitter's announced rollout of identity verification -- measured, maybe even slow, and celebrity-oriented -- Facebook is going with the sheer-mayhem approach as the service throws open the registration process for vanity URLs late Friday evening.

Vanity URLs have been available on a very limited basis previously, but most URLs are simply numeric. But on Friday at 9:01 pm PDT (a minute after midnight on the 13th for the East Coast), users will be given the option to select one username of at least five characters in length and using the Roman alphabet, numbers or a dot.

According to Blaise DiPersia, the Facebook designer charged with making the announcement on the service's blog, those charged with tending to a trademark or another protected name may contact Facebook to set things up. Otherwise, if you want your name (or something else, though since you can never change it again Betanews suggests you pass on usernames such as "summer09hurray") it's on you to dive in Friday evening.

The change will, of course, increase memorability for those users who choose to change their URLs. Facebook also notes that new URLs will make make one's Facebook page much more searchable, but that one's current privacy setting will also be one's username-era privacy setting and can be changed in the usual fashion.

Comment on Mr. DiPersia's post was, predictably enough for Facebook, split right down the middle -- two for the change, two against, and one obscure. Elsewhere, the likely flaw in Facebook's logic was well-expressed by a wise commenter on TechCrunch suggested that maybe making the service free wasn't the wisest idea. "Yikes," wrote "Rick" "This will be a mess. I'd actually prefer if they charged for this just to keep things under control. $2/yr to keep your vanity URL seems fair."

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