Facebook Vanity URLs or Digital Identity For Dummies

All of the hype and echo regarding the Facebook vanity URLs is fairly deafening. If you look at TechMeme this morning, there is almost as much mention of this as there was for the new iPhone. Within all of this, there is one logical post by Chris Messina. If you do not know who Chris is, he is probably the leading mind on digital identity. So, when he is talking about OpenID or digital identity, you want to listen. Not surprising is that he is not a fan of all of the social services offering username based URLs:

All these guys want to own me (and you, for that matter). And, they all want to be my communications hub ( FriendFeed now offers email, by the way, and I imagine Facebook will get in that game eventually as well, since DiPersia wrote, “We expect to offer even more ways to use your Facebook user name in the future”).

The problem is that he is right. The “destinations” of the web 2.0 world are the sites that are the “communication hubs” as Chris calls them. Chris also includes a large quote from Brian Oberkirch regarding our “@ identities”. The whole quote is interesting, but there is one part of it that alludes to the main problem we are have:

Own your namespace. Get a domain, pivot from there. If your domain is your name, so much the better. Please don’t come crying to me when the Goog owns your ‘@’ and that whole namespace gets deprecated.

This will never happen. At least it will not happen without a lot of help. First, most people are not technically savvy enough to get their own domain, put up some basic contact and biographical information and point people to it. The mainstream user is entirely centered on three things, email, IM and Facebook. There are other outlets for their internet usage, but these three things seem to be the core. This is the real problem.

With vanity URLs, Facebook is giving its plethora of users a digital identity for dummies. It is easy to setup, and you are already posting information there. It has plenty of biographical content, as well as social activity from Facebook directly and other sites like Twitter and FriendFeed.

I know that for many of us, it is not hard to setup a simple domain and website, but for the mainstream it is still “too hard”. Why go through all of that work when Facebook has already done it for them? Typically, they think that all of the people they know are on Facebook as well. When you are the communication hub for a few hundred million people, you can become the default standard for digital identity. This is especially true when you provide a little ego boost to people.

So, until someone creates a service that will purchase a domain name and build a website out of your resume (or any other identity information) with just a few clicks, we are stuck with digital identity for dummies or Facebook vanity URLs.

4 thoughts on “Facebook Vanity URLs or Digital Identity For Dummies

  1. Hi Rob,

    I mostly agree, except on the point concerning the average web user not knowing how to manage their own domain. The process of setting up and operating a professional website, within minutes and with its own domain, continues to become easier. I think it may be too much of a generalization to assume that this is a skill the masses don’t posses at this point in time.

    Now whether or not they have the desire to do it, that’s a different story, but the ability to set up a personalized domain (via GoDaddy) and then easily set up WordPress and a professional theme is almost as easy as navigating the latest social network.


  2. Brandon,

    Desire is something that I did not really mention, but I think desire would be a big part of the problem. Granted, I probably have a little less faith in mainstream user’s knowledge and desire. I know that purchasing and setting up a basic website is fairly simple in terms of the steps. However, I am thinking more along the lines of an “identity” site with your profile and various social media integrations or plugins. Even with the simplicity of things like WordPress, it is somewhat beyond many people either in knowledge, desire or even time. Maybe I am just too pessimistic.


  3. Rob, I totally agree! Registering and setting up a domain is still difficult for the average user. It’s a common problem of domain registrars. They’re all too focussed on making money with up-selling their services, domain parking or expired domains instead of focussing on the community. And try to explain somebody how to setup DNS (CNAME? A record? MX?)… People don’t understand a single word!

    That’s why we have launched our iWantMyName domain management service. The domain registration process is easy and setting up DNS for popular apps works with a single click. Check it out: http://iwantmyname.com 🙂


  4. Thanks for the info!

    I got my name as the username.

    You don’t need 1,000 Fans to get your own username.

    Your Facebook account must be registered before June 9 as the only criteria.



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