My name is not a URL

Twitter / Mark Zuckerberg: Also just created a public ...

Arrington has a post that claims that Facebook is getting wise to something MySpace has known from the start – users love vanity URLs.

I don’t buy it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the omission of vanity URLs on Facebook is an intentional design decision from the beginning, and one that I’ve learned to appreciate over time.

From what I’ve gathered, it was co-founder Dustin Moskovitz’s stubbornness that kept Facebook from allowing the use of pseudonymic usernames common on previous-generation social networks like AOL. Considering that Mark Zuckerberg’s plan is to build an online version of the relationships we have in real life, it only makes sense that we should, therefore, call our friends by their IRL names — not the ones left over or suggested by a computer.

But there’s actually something deeper going on here — something that I talked about at DrupalCon — because there are at least two good uses for letting people set their own vanity URLs — three if your service somehow surfaces usernames as an interface handle:

  1. Uniqueness and remembering
  2. Search engine optimization
  3. Facilitating member-to-member communication (as in the case of Twitter’s @replies)

For my own sake, I’ve lately begun decreasing the distance between my real identity and my online persona, switching from @factoryjoe to @chrismessina on Twitter. While there are plenty of folks who know me by my digital moniker, there are far more who don’t and shouldn’t need to in order to interact with me.

When considering SEO, it’s quite obvious that Google has already picked up on the correlation:

chris messina - Google Search

Ironically, in Dustin’s case (intentionally or not) he is not an authority for his own name on Google (despite the uniqueness of his name). Instead, semi-nefarious sites like Spock use SEO to get prominent placement for Dustin’s name (whether he likes it or not):

Dustin Moskovitz - Google Search

Finally, in cases like Twitter, IM or IRC, nicknames or handles are used explicitly to refer to other people on the system, even if (or especially if!) real identities are never revealed. While this separation can afford a number of perceived benefits, long-term it’s hard to quantify the net value of pseudonymity when most assholes on the web seem to act out most aggressively when shrouding their real names.

By shunning vanity URLs for its members, Facebook has achieved three things:

  1. Establishes a new baseline for transparent online identity
  2. Avoids the naming collision problem by scoping relationships within a person’s [reciprocal] social graph
  3. Upgrades expectations for human interaction on social websites

That everyone on Facebook has to use their real name (and Facebook will root out and disable accounts with pseudonyms), there’s a higher degree of accountability because legitimate users are forced to reveal who they are offline. No more “funnybunny345″ or “daveman692″ creeping around and leaving harassing wall posts on your profile; you know exactly who left the comment because their name is attached to their account.

Go through the comments on TechCrunch and compare those left by Facebook users with those left by everyone else. In my brief analysis, Facebook commenters tend to take their commenting more seriously. It’s not a guarantee, but there is definitely a correlation between durable identity and higher quality participation.

Now, one might point out that, without unique usernames, you’d end up with a bunch of name collisions — and you’d be right. However, combining search-by-email with profile photos largely eliminates this problem, and since Facebook requires bidirectional friendship confirmation, it’s going to be hard to get the wrong “Mike Smith” showing up in your social graph. So instead of futzing with (and probably forgetting) what strange username your friend uses, you can just search by (concept!) their real name using Facebook’s type-ahead find. And with autocompletion, you’ll never spell it wrong (of course Gmail has had this for ages as well).

Let me make a logical leap here and point out here that this is the new namespace — the human-friendly namespace — that Tim O’Reilly observed emerging when he defined Web 2.0, pointing out that a future source of lock-in would be “owning a namespace”. This is why location-based services are so hot. This is also why it matters who gets out in front first by developing a database of places named by humans — rather than by their official names. When it comes to search, search will get better when you can bound it — to the confluence of your known world and the known/colloquial world of your social graph.

When I was in San Diego a couple weeks back, it dawned on me that if I searched for “Joe’s Crab Shack”, no search engine on earth would be able to give me a satisfying result… unless it knew where I was. Or where I had been. Or, where my friends had been. This is where social search and computer-augmented social search becomes powerful (see Aardvark). Not just that, but this is where owning a database of given names tied to real things becomes hugely powerful (see Foursquare). This is where social objects with human-given names become the spimatic web.

So, as this plays out, success will find the designer who most nearly replicates the world offline online. Consider:

Twitter / Rear Adm. Monteiro: @mat and I are in the back ...

vs:

Facebook | @replies

and:

iChat

vs.

Facebook Chat

Ignoring content, it seems to me that the latter examples are much easier to grok without knowing anything about Facebook or Twitter — and are much closer approximations of real life.

Moreover, in EventBox, there is evidence that we truly are in a transitional period, where a large number of people still identity themselves or know their friends by usernames, but an increasing number of newcomers are more comfortable using real names (click to enlarge):

Eventbox Preferences

We’re only going to see more of this kind of thing, where the data-driven design approach will give way to a more overall humane aesthetic. It begins by calling people by the names we humans prefer to — and will always — use. And I think Facebook got it right by leaving out the vanity URLs.

58 Comments

  1. at 5pm on Mar 21st # |

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I believe the only people interested in vanity URLs are those of us that are early adopters and want to secure “adamjackson” as their facebook URL. I’d like to have it but in the case of MySpace, I tried to secure adamjackson during the first week this was available and was stuck with adamjackson1984 which really sucked!

    Short story is, vanity URLs benefit those of us who really need the vanity. The rest of us are stuck with “fuzzybunn69″ and it’s better to just not have a static url at that point. I agree with you that Facebook would be better off just keeping things IRL names with a profile # but part of me would like my own unique name on Facebook and I promise to use my real name.

  2. at 5pm on Mar 21st # |

    As far as real dialog on Facebook versus other sites – I did a content analysis on the Presidential Candidate’s sites back in May of 08 where I analyzed the dialog on their YouTube, Facebook and MySpace pages during one of the primaries (in real time) and my conclusion was actually the same. Facebook commenters did seem to take their comments more seriously, and they seemed to be more on task/ on target than on the other sites. Plus, there was real dialog going on and not just off handed comments. It could be because of the way the site is implemented – or because it forces the use of your real identity, that was not what I was there to determine – but may make an interesting future study!

  3. Fred Zeats said
    at 5pm on Mar 21st # |

    Actually, Facebook’s mania over so-called ‘real names’ means that most people who know me can’t find me because most people who know me do not know my ‘real’ name. I have a friend who is a DJ who has the exact same problem as his ‘real’ name is ‘Ernest’ and only the people who went to grade-school with him know that.

  4. Fred Zeats said
    at 5pm on Mar 21st # |

    Oh, one more thing, Facebook assumes that your online life is the same thing as your real life. This is true for some percentage of people on the Internet. It is by no means true for everyone. My “real” life has nothing whatsoever to do with my online life.

  5. at 6pm on Mar 21st # |

    It’s not about names, it’s about identity. Which of the two identity tokens asked for above is more useful in terms of identity, the OpenID URL, or my name? The things about using your real name encouraging responsible commenting is often made, but it’s a heuristic strategy that only works half-ass now and is only going to get worse.

  6. Luke Shepard said
    at 6pm on Mar 21st # |

    Great analysis, Chris, and I think you got to the heart of what Dustin was looking for.

    For your reasons, I think #2 – SEO is actually not that important for individuals. Dustin is a celebrity, so perhaps an exception, but for me my personal url has my name in it regardless and is the first hit for a vanity search:

    http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Shepard/2901279

    In fact, in some ways it helps SEO. If there are multiple Luke Shepard’s in the world (and there are) then each of them has an equal shot at the SEO top place, and search engines can figure out whether to put them there based on context. And if, like on Facebook, search is determined by your social graph, then having real names makes it more likely that you’ll find who you’re looking for.

  7. Mitch said
    at 8pm on Mar 21st # |

    But they *do* use vanity URLs:
    http://www.facebook.com/gary

  8. Todd said
    at 6am on Mar 22nd # |

    This post is makes some valid points but…

    Chris you are “interwebz famous”, deservedly so because of all the great work you do. That affords you the ability to brush of the need for unique user IDs. I bet the SEO and findabiltiy for “Chis Messina” works really well for you – vanity URLs be damned.

    But what about us great unwashed masses? I, a total no one, not interwebz famous, do not enjoy having people I know, prospective employers, etc. just type my name into Google and have it come up page one. There are thousands with the same first and last name.

    If a plain old no one like me were to abandon my unique username, I would forfeit all of the recent discoveries, connections, phone calls and even emails ( Gasp! ).

    Just some thoughts from the ghetto, a perspective that “daveman692″ and “factoryjoe” may not take into consideration.

    P.S.

    Jump on over to whitepages (dot) com and enter John Smith – what are those folks supposed to do?

  9. Allen Tom said
    at 10am on Mar 22nd # |

    An internet without personas and handles would be just as boring as real life.

  10. i-Names Sayitall said
    at 10am on Mar 22nd # |

    My name is an I-Name…….
    =david.l.woolfenden

  11. at 10am on Mar 22nd # |

    Hmm I believe these vanity URLs are only available on Public Profiles (aka, the old “Pages), right?

    Arrington says Kevin Rose got a vanity URL when, in fact, he did got a vanity URL for a Public Profile (aka Page), not for *his profile* – and Facebook has done that in the past with other brands/artists/whatever.

  12. at 11am on Mar 22nd # |

    I think your observation that durable, real identities will make us behave better is spot on. Well socialized folks have an innate need to behave according to the rules of the group. The more accountable we are to our community, however widespread geographically, the better.

    I would argue that twitter, in my community at least, is very much connected to my real identity. It’s linked to my personal and employer’s websites. I know or would like to meet the vast percentage of the people I follow. I’m certainly not going to misbehave on twitter and believe that’s the case for my friends as well.

    There’s much to be learned from our offline social interactions as well. The way we behave in traffic holds some interesting insights.

    “Drivers in convertibles with the tops down are less likely to honk than those with the top up. [...] And drivers are more likely to honk at people from another state or country than their own.” – from http://tomvanderbilt.com/traffic/some-things-about-traffic-that-may-surprise-you/

    Both of these phenomena are related to anonymity. Is Facebook using real names the equivalent of driving with your top down? Perhaps. Presumably people from another state are much less likely to know who you are. Give us the tools to know who’s who and we’ll all benefit.

  13. Carson said
    at 11am on Mar 22nd # |

    I’m pretty sure Facebook will be opening up vanity URLs for its pages and not its users…which makes a lot more sense.

    Have you seen vitamin waters latest commercial? It ends by flashing the URL facebook.com/vitaminwater

    This would Work for popular individuals just fine… There are probably many people with the name tom hanks’ on Facebook, but only one Tom Hanks.

  14. at 12pm on Mar 22nd # |

    Crystal, your points apply to identites, but not necessarily to given names.

    The idea of requiring real names is bad from a useability perspective, too. Let people call themselves whatever they want, and fill in as much or as little profile information as they want.

    Fake Steve Jobs was funny, so let’s get over this verified identity nonsense.

  15. at 12pm on Mar 22nd # |

    Carson > Facebook has been giving out vanity URLs for some time now. We’ve worked with them to get our clients’ names, eg. facebook.com/goldsgym. FB recently implemented a policy regarding this so that vanity URLs are available only to companies that spend more than $50k in advertising.

    William > I’m not arguing that given names are the answer for every site. I do think that having a place of trusted identity is useful. It will be interesting to see how single sign-on plays out. Is verified identity a core dependency for its success?

  16. Capri said
    at 12pm on Mar 22nd # |

    I dislike the term “vanity url” for an url with somebody’s name in it. Vanity has nothing to do with it, or at least, wouldn’t in my case. People like simpler urls, and if a site or profile can be made simpler by being named a name rather than a seemingly long string of random numbers and letters, it’s just more convenient all around. They need to ditch the term “vanity” for this type of url and call them “name urls” instead.

  17. enoss said
    at 1pm on Mar 22nd # |

    this is an issue that we have been thinking about a LOT as we (Tucows) own the largest collection of surname domain names in the world (lastname.com/net/org). http://opensrs.com/personalnames/

    surname domain names are in three places, one-off companies (ford.com), one-off geeks (shirky.com, searls.com) and our collection.

    speak to a geek who has their own surname and it is always because of obscurity or early action. most importantly, ask them if they would take some ungodly sum of money for it. I do. the answer is always NO!

    having an eponymous Internet identity is priceless.

  18. Dane Deasy said
    at 2pm on Mar 22nd # |

    Great article. Will Tweet it now.

  19. at 2pm on Mar 22nd # |

    Crystal, if by verified identity you mean “proof you’re the owner of this URL”, then sure. If by verified identity you mean “proof that whatever you typed in the Name: field is the same as what’s printed on your birth certificate”, then I remain unconvinced.

    If you can have an identity without a name(as a certain artist formerly known as an unpronounceable symbol did), then certainly you can have identity without the name your parents gave you.

    There are people I interact with online who I trust, but don’t know much about other than their track record of being insightful, informed, and intelligent. If I met dekaysion in real life and he came up to me and introduced himself as dekay, that would be fine with me. Knowing his real name doesn’t make me trust him more or less, because he’s got at least as much reputation connected to dekay as to his real name. I’ve introduced myself to people as Mr. Gunn IRL because that’s the only name they know.

    More importantly, there remains a need for people to have multiple identities(professional and hobby-related, for example), which is entirely incompatible with mandatory “Real Names”.

  20. at 3pm on Mar 22nd # |

    also it sucks, that someone with a personal relationship to a company like facebook is being treated differently than the average user. why does loic le meur get facebook.com/loic and not any other loic?

  21. at 5pm on Mar 22nd # |

    yeah that DaveMan692 guy *is* a little sketchy… always skulking around us Real Daves. ban his ass all over the web i say.

  22. Ken said
    at 8pm on Mar 22nd # |

    You make some very good points, but “first+last” is not how all my real-world relationships work.

    Real names as identities work great for some, and horrible for others. My name (first+last) is so common that I’ve had friends tell me they were unable to find me with web searches, unless they type in my “online name”. And I have friends who I call by their last name, or (if they have an obnoxiously long name) by some nickname.

    Using first+last on Facebook sounds great (if I used Facebook, and if it worked for my name), but it doesn’t scale for users: I can’t use it on GMail or Flickr or Twitter or for my domain name. My online persona will always (barring an overhaul of the DNS system, or a name change on my part) need a unique identifier.

  23. Bill said
    at 9pm on Mar 22nd # |

    What the heck is the spimatic web? Did I miss an important blog post on Friendfeed?

  24. Mike Monteiro said
    at 9pm on Mar 22nd # |

    I’ll go ahead and bite since you used me as your “bad” example.

    “success will find the designer who most nearly replicates the world offline online.”

    Defining success as replicating the offline world online is but one possible success strategy, and as far as I’m concerned a really boring one. The online world is full of too much possibility for for merely mapping an offline reality to it. But I suppose if your self-worth is tied to your SEO optimization then enjoy it.

  25. Otto said
    at 10pm on Mar 22nd # |

    I only read the good part. I have an opinion: I like people to know me as Otto. the only otto on the internet that REALLY has something important to say. it’s my job to say things that are important and to talk to THE GOVERNMENT about getting little birds in my mailbox and illegal escrow accounts at Carl’s Jr. Thank you.

  26. at 1am on Mar 23rd # |

    Just a thought, most of my friends call me by my school-days nick name, isn’t that a bit like a vanity URL? It is my friends choice, not mine, I suppose that is it the difference?

  27. Dinah Sanders (MetaGrrrl) said
    at 7am on Mar 23rd # |

    Thanks for the interesting thoughts. While I agree that “known identity makes for more thoughtful participation”, it seems as though you’ve set up an artificial division between “using a handle” and “being personally identifiable”. Anyone who wants to know who MetaGrrrl is can easily find out – I know they know & it does influence my behavior – AND I have the benefit of a unique, short identifier.

    Given how many Chris’ there are just in the social circle encompassing you & I, I appeciate any disambiguatipn tools I’ve got. Handles made up of names are fine if, as noted by others above, you get there first, but since legal names are not a unique namespace, handles serve a vital role.

    One piece of advice I will give to anyone needing or wanting to chhose a handle is not to tie that handle too closely to a specific current aspect of your identity, especially your company or project. You should be able to move on without having to abandon your prior online self.

  28. at 8am on Mar 23rd # |

    Hmmm… I’ve been saying this since forever in the OpenID community (http://commented.org/blog/2007/8/24/openids-systemic-failure.html). Good to see more people rethinking URLs.

    But of course, Chris, you’re now dissing OpenID since no one uses i-names or other dubious identifiers?

  29. i-Names Sayitall said
    at 10am on Mar 23rd # |

    “one uses i-names or other dubious identifiers?”……”

  30. at 10am on Mar 23rd # |

    I agree that we need to behave better on the Internet, and maybe requiring real names would help, but there are too many issues here. Real names are NOT what we use in real life as a personal identifier – otherwise I could get a loan without providing my real life unique ID, which is my social security number. Why not make URLs out of that? Oh, wait, that’s right, the Internet is the biggest untrusted network in the world, 55% spam and even more douchebaggery…

    Also, it is impossible to make the name verification really work – just ask Kevin Mitnick (yes, THAT Kevin Mitnick):

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10197393-83.html

    I have to agree with Mike that online is different from offline.. But the main point there should be (I think) that the company who is the most creative and does the most different and unique things ‘wins’ offline – why do you think this wouldn’t be true online?

    Lastly: Offline business has nothing to do with real names either – Pepsi, H&R Block, NBC… Are these not what we would call ‘monikers’?

  31. Fred Zeats said
    at 12pm on Mar 23rd # |

    How useful is ‘real name’ identification on Facebook? Not at all useful. For example, I was recently looking for a friend of mine from college named “John Richards” Any idea how many John Richards there are? How about “Tom Davis” “John Williams” and “Elizabeth (liz, beth, betty, or liza) Johnson”. The only reason I am on facebook at all is because family members are on it. I do not look at it as a ‘social network’ because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the online people I socialize with. I don’t have anything of any import on FaceBook because I don’t trust Facebook not to decide one day that I am not a “real” person and destroy my account. And since I am not famous enough to embarrass Facebook for their stupidity like others have managed to do (mitnick, Scrobble, et al), anything I have on Facebook is completely transient and at the whim of a capricious company. Anyone who relies on Facebook is a fool.

  32. Capri said
    at 1pm on Mar 23rd # |

    Erm, so I’m a fool for relying on Facebook to notify me when friends’ birthdays are coming up, gee thanks Fred Zeats, as if the term “vanity url” isn’t already insulting enough for somebody who prefers a name url over a bunch of random letters and numbers to make a ridiculously long url. And name urls don’t have to be firstnamelastname, they can be an url based on an online handle, so I still object to the term “vanity url” because people aren’t vain for wanting a simpler url for their site or profile.

  33. Anon said
    at 2pm on Mar 23rd # |

    I’m not convinced that this isn’t a movement being driven by the fact that a lot of people are making a living out of being web 2.0 celebrities (or trying to). I’m tired of reading articles about “developing your social brand”. I think this topic is a healthy example of that trend. Good for you if you that’s your dream, I’m all for people striving to achieve their goals.

    I’ll stick to anonymity thanks! My out-of-work life doesn’t make me any money, so I’ve no need to publicise what I do. I don’t believe I’m outnumbered either.

  34. Montoya said
    at 7am on Mar 24th # |

    Facebook doesn’t need to use all that fake-handle crap because they made a neat typeahead box that comes up with your friends name after you’ve typed the first three letters, regardless of whether you are typing first name or last. You are 100% on the money, they are replicating real-life relationships and they are doing a very good job of it. Interestingly enough, Twitter is suffering from a serious fake-relationships/spam problem, as more companies & individuals use it to get free promotion rather than build real friendships. Facebook has never suffered from this problem.

  35. Capri said
    at 8am on Mar 24th # |

    Twitter is nothing, next to Facebook and most other sites, there’s nothing to do over there and nothing worth reading.

  36. Laurie said
    at 7pm on Mar 24th # |

    Great post Chris.

    I have to admit I’ve always been of two minds about Facebook’s philosophy wrt vanity URLs.

    I like the reduced clutter of a friend’s list with recognizable handles, and FB has provided that to a large extent. And I also believe that a lot of people are not that interested in pseudonymity.

    On the other hand, I’m still concerned about how this is being handled by FaceBook. As we’ve seen in the past, many people were not able to create accounts with their real names, because of the data sets that were used to determine the validity of a name.

    Pseudomymity also has its place, but often times it also creates a lot of noise.

    Basically, at the risk of repeating myself, at the end of the day, more can be accomplished with less noise. However, I still think we will benefit for a long time from both approaches.

  37. Desmond said
    at 5am on Mar 27th # |

    The principal characteristic of Facebook is the default opaqueness of one’s particulars. One can afford to be transparent because they can control how much information they actually want to share about themselves. This makes handle-level anonymity redundant.

    Although handle-level anonymity promotes a certain lack of concern about how one’s behaviour is perceived, it is a useful tool for the sort of social networking where one’s information is bared for all to see. WIth Facebook, Orkut, Bebo and others, the originator of that information (not quite owner anymore, but that is a topic all its own) can better manage how that information is shared. Transparency and privacy can be managed by audience.

    The most useful aspect of this is making it more difficult for abuse to occur. Unless the account originator chooses to share their information in a fully transparent manner with the world, they are fully aware of who (as in users) has access to their information and to what extent. This makes it harder for nasty people to cyberstalk or otherwise abuse one’s social networking information. You would be surprised how “transparency’ is abused, in particular by those who believe ‘transparency’ is an excuse to abuse someone else’s privacy and pry into things that are morally and legally none of their business.

    Pseudonymity is a tactic that has become useful to protect the privacy of social networking users when they do not necessarily have other tools at their disposal. In providing such other tools, Facebook diminishes the need for pseudonymity.

  38. at 5am on Mar 27th # |

    The problem is that it really only establishes a link to an identity, not the identity itself. In particular if you look for a “Tina Fey” you can get any number of fakes that can use the popular semantics of that name to “gain” credibility. Unfortunate if you’re a reasonably well known Tina Fey in your niche!

    At least if you were called “tinaphysics” and that was your identity people have a hell of a better chance of discovering your social profiles, comments etc that as “Tina Fey” (I use her as an example as her fake profile has > 200k followers).

  39. at 6am on Mar 27th # |

    having used a NIC handle for domains… having had an AOL/Eworld screen name in 1994, using the same “nickname” for IRC, chat, forums, blogs, domains, etc.. for 15 years… i “know” people who NEVER knew my real name.

  40. at 7am on Mar 27th # |

    On the contrary, Facebook was not giving out vanity URLS as part of its effort to keep its content from being indexed by search engines and tending their walled garden.

  41. SexySEO said
    at 3pm on Mar 27th # |

    “My name is not number” http://sexyseo.blogspot.com/2009/03/my-name-is-not-number.html

  42. at 6pm on Mar 27th # |

    oh.. my name IS a url..

    http://www.steveplunkett.com

    so was http://www.paisley.net

  43. Vicki said
    at 8pm on Mar 27th # |

    If I create an id for a new site, I choose vlb whenever possible. If not possible, I try vlbrown because at least I can type it without backing up. If that isn’t available, I really have to think.

    Online, I _am_ vlb. vlb is me. I’ve been vlb since 1983. I tried “vicki” once at one company and changed it 3 weeks later because I couldn’t remember it.

    Offline I am Vicki (and I’ll give you Vicki as the Name field in a comment like this one). So Vicki is also an identity.

    My last name is so common that no one can remember it. My full first name only identifies me to my bank, the DMV, and the IRS. And no one (including me) ever uses the middle name from my birth certificate.

    I am constantly amazed by people who seem to feel that “your full IRL name” is somehow a better identifier than whatever handle _you_ choose. When some teammates at work started suggestion that everyone should use their “real names” in the group IRC channel I countered by changing my IRC “nick” to V.

    You are who you are; the “name” you go by should be your choice. It’s just as possible to have a high degree of accountability as funnybunny345 (or vlb) as it is to be irresponsible under What Looks Like an IRL Name.

  44. Liz said
    at 3pm on Mar 28th # |

    Personally, I don’t want to merge all of my identities. When I go for a job interview and a potential employer Googles me, I don’t want my Tweets and blog entries bubbling up to the top of the search engine results page. And I know I’m not alone.

    Our online recreation, creative pursuits & hobbies might not align with our professional identity. When you Google a doctor or lawyer you might hire, do you really want to see his posts on a message board for bass fisherman or her Tweets about the problems she’s having with her iPhone or the wedding planning page for their fall wedding?

    I’d also argue that it was LinkedIn, maybe more so than Facebook, that led people to abandon pseudonyms in favor of real, actual names.

  45. jack said
    at 7am on Mar 29th # |

    “It’s just as possible to have a high degree of accountability as funnybunny345 (or vlb) as it is to be irresponsible under What Looks Like an IRL Name.”

    Possible, yet doesn’t happen. Defending anything, supporting anything, because of some pie in the sky ‘possible’ is kind of a joke.

    “When you Google a doctor or lawyer you might hire, do you really want to see his posts on a message board for bass fisherman or her Tweets about the problems she’s having with her iPhone or the wedding planning page for their fall wedding?”

    Why would you care? A doctor isn’t just a doctor. Unless we’re deluding ourselves that our doctor lives at the hospital I’m not sure why seeing that he/she can’t work an iPhone means anything.

    “I’d also argue that it was LinkedIn, maybe more so than Facebook, that led people to abandon pseudonyms in favor of real, actual names.”

    Only if the ‘idea’ came from linkedin, and I doubt it did. Facebook cuts across such a larger social group, and has such a larger user base, that linkedin can’t come close to facebook’s influence.

  46. at 1pm on Mar 30th # |

    The instant-messaging (IM) screenshots and corresponding UI/usability statements make very good points.

    Two counterpoints you may wish to consider:

    1. Wikipedia is a good example of what can be built with (mostly) pseudonymous identities rather than requiring “IRL names”.

    2. Hypothesis: OpenID commenters “tend to take their commenting more seriously” than Facebook commenters. Perhaps because using/owning your own URL (rather than sharecropping your identity on a semi-walled-garden service like Facebook) provides a more “durable identity and [encourages] higher quality participation”.

    Tantek

  47. at 1am on Apr 13th # |

    While I agree that “vanity URLs” as they are on MySpace and other “teenage” focused sites are sometimes annoying and childish, I wouldn’t mind seeing cleaner URLs on Facebook.

    It wouldn’t be difficult for them to change my profile URL from /profile.php?id=625472164 to /625472164/Jan+Schjetne/. And since I’m the only person on Facebook called Jan Schjetne I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to give me just /Jan+Schjetne/ either, but I understand how that would be a problem if your name is John Smith.

    It would take some clever URL rewriter no more than a day to come up with a solution, though. I’ve never really understood why Facebook URLs are so ugly.

  48. Capri said
    at 5am on Apr 13th # |

    Still, the name “vanity url” needs to go. Just because I’d like facebook.com/profile/whateverthenumberis/capri doesn’t make me guilty of vanity!

  49. Robin said
    at 9am on Apr 23rd # |

    I don’t like the vanities url too… Will I Pay for them ? Never !

  50. Fred Zeats said
    at 6pm on Jun 6th # |

    Capri: If you are RELYING on Facebook in anyway then you are being foolish because if FaceBook loses (or deletes) your data, you have no recourse unless you are famous enough to get your issue into the media. As I said, Facebook is a capricious company.

    Capricious: prone to irrational and unpredictable changes in mood and behavior.

    Sounds like Facebook to me.

  51. Capri said
    at 7pm on Jun 6th # |

    I never said I “relied” on Facebook for anything, my point is to protest the use of the insulting term “vanity url”. I’d like an easier url. I am not vain. That’s my point…

  52. at 8am on Aug 4th # |

    I agree; I don’t like the idea that I would have to always update anything in order to ‘sell myself’ and my image and compete to have the ‘coolest’ page and so forth. My personality is in the real world, no hiding in the ether…

  53. eric said
    at 1am on Aug 7th # |

    I want to be an URL IRL :)

  54. Albert Nel said
    at 9am on Sep 16th # |

    The one thing I always get concerned about when talking about Web 2.0 and like you mentioned, the search engines that should be capable of knowing where you are, where you were, where your friends were etc… is that it’s exactly that! The search engines (aka Google as they seem to be slowly taking over the world) will then know even more about you.

    To continue, the problem with that is the ridiculous amount of power that will be had with that type of information. I already felt strange about my twitter account being my name… but like you also mentioned, it allows for a transparency that is necessary in the social realms that Twitter and Facebook calls home.

    It’s not that I’m a conspiracy nut or anything like that, I just value my privacy a lot and would rather avoid the social network completely instead of getting the “forced privilege” to have my name in some vanity URL.

    Great post, great read.

  55. Capri said
    at 1pm on Sep 16th # |

    Once again, they are NOT “vanity urls” You’re not vain for using a name/handle as an url and people just keep using that insulting term as if it was nothing. Yes, there are concerns about privacy online, people can and do misuse personal information – addresses, phone numbers, first and last names, locations to harass others online, and this includes bullying, stalking, blackklisting whoever the victim of the hate campaign is. That’s why I prefer not to use my full name or give it out unless I have no choice. But that doesn’t make me vain for wanting to use a handle in an url instead of a bunch of random numbers.

  56. Erik Petersen said
    at 8pm on Apr 23rd # |

    @Fred: I 100% agree with you on this. I have *several* real lives and I consider this to be very legitimate.

    I’m a web master of a large forum and the members know me as, well, a ruthless dictator and tyrant. It’s part of the job when you need to be judge and executioner and at time force people to do what you want them to do. To them, I’m an Oz-like figure and that suits me well.

    In “real life” I’m not that person at all. These are two entirely different “people”, characters or roles I play and each has they own social network and each their own separate identities.

    I am NOT a fan of social networks for one simple reason: social identities are uni-dimensional, singular and absolute. The full depth of my social identity doesn’t begin to encompass the full scope of my personality or my identiy. I’m not the same person to all people and I don’t share all of my life with all of my friends (real or otherwise).

    I don’t want my grandmother or my niece knowing “I’m a fan of Whips and Chains” or my boss knowing I f***ed off from work early because it was too nice a day to waste it inside or that he’s an imbecile even if I choose to tell my S&M friends I think so.

    The idea that you can capture the entire identity of a person in a single place is false logic and even if you could I would consider that yo be a gross violation of my person and my privacy and no, I don’t trust that Facebook or Google or whoever you choose will keep my secrets secret.

    I don’t like having my real name associated with my facebook profile and that is why I limit my facebook friends to only a handful. If your Facebook profile is all you are then I probably wouldn’t want to be your friend anyway.

    “If Relationship George walks through that door, he will kill Independent George! A George divided against itself, cannot stand!”

    I don’t think social networking, facebook in particular, is the panacea people claim it to be because it doesn’t deliver on what it promises which is a singular, uni-dimensional profile of a multi-dimensional, dynamic and complex human animal. If they did I wouldn’t go anywhere near them.

  57. Rob G. said
    at 8pm on Jul 27th # |

    I agree with the whole “vanity” issue is really for those that need it. My thing is that the growth of these so called “social” networks is paramount to the numbing of our senses in the 1950’s and 1960’s with TV. I in fact believe we are becoming less “social” as a society with each passing generation. Go outside and have a cold beer with the neighbor sometime!

  58. Capri said
    at 12pm on Jul 28th # |

    Again, it isn’t “vanity” to have a url with your name/handle in it instead of a bunch of numbers! One thing I’ve always disliked about Facebook is they require you to use your full name, which is why, regardless of what my url is there (and I’m not vain BTW) I don’t even give it out to anyone… They’re not “vanity” urls, they are “username urls”……….

One Trackback

  1. [...] My name is not a URL [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*