June 13, 2009

Facebook Parks Some Vanity URL Seekers in Purgatory

Tonight's tech event that saw Facebook unleash millions of vanity URLs to its fanatic user base has to be considered an unqualified success. It raised significant awareness for the social network, and managed to deliver hundreds of thousands of new IDs every few minutes, without showing any signs of system failure. But while some elite hand-selected users were given their names in advance, another, likely small, group, is in an odd in-between land where the user names were shown as unavailable, but didn't look like they were owned by anyone.

Visible social networking folks, including myself, Jesse Stay and TechCrunch's Michael Arrington were among those remaining somewhat befuddled at our situation - unclear if we were singled out for user name reservations by a well-meaning Facebook employee (who will tell us eventually?), or if instead, we're just in line to be completely out of luck.

This is the URL that makes the most sense.

Like most good digerati, at midnight Eastern, I logged in to grab my username - aiming to get "louisgray" there, just like everywhere else. Fail. It said it wasn't available (at 12:01 a.m.). Neither was "louis" or even "louis.gray". In parallel, Jesse found that "jessestay" and "jesse.stay" were blocked, and on Twitter, Arrington reported "arrington, michaelarrington and michael.arrington were all not available."

This would be a fallback choice, and much less preferred.

While oddly, each of us individuals probably shouldn't care so much about a simple user name we've locked down everywhere else, the uncertainty has us a little befuddled. I want to take the optimistic approach and expect that this will be resolved in a matter of hours, but remain curious as to just how many hours, or if there is a problem with the database that has prevented folks like ourselves from getting the desired names - for whatever reason.

So, for now, while many in the social networking space exult in their being recognized for the names they got at birth, we'll still hold on to our number right now. I'm not compromising on a non-standard ID just for the sake of having one.