Facebook, Please Take My Money (I want my URL)!

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My name is Bob Moore and I have one of the most generic names on the planet.   I get strip searched at the airport because some other guy named Robert Moore is on a watchlist.  When I applied for my mortgage, I had to initial over 500 documents individually to certify that I wasn’t some other like-named person (like that Rob Moore who defaulted on a farm equipment loan or that Bobby Moore who didn’t pay his taxes in 1971).  I’ve done my best to add some uniqueness to my name, usually by adding a middle initial and going by “Robert J. Moore.”   However, it isn’t always enough.

Case in point: this Facebook URL fiasco.  This week, I worked more than a few 14+ hour days, and when I closed down my computer at 11PM on Friday night, I couldn’t wait to sleep.  And boy did I sleep.  I got to the office on Saturday Morning and Jake said, “Hey, did you get your Facebook URL?”  Crap!  I already knew it was too late.  (Jake actually set his alarm clock for 11:55PM so he could wake up and go register www.facebook.com/jakestein at the first possible second.)

I headed over to Facebook and, lo and behold, the vanity URL I wanted (robertjmoore) was taken.  So was robertmoore, robertj.moore, robert.j.moore, bobmoore, bob.moore, robmoore (my professional theif name), bjmoore (my adult film star name), bmoore (my motivational speaker name), etc etc.  As evidenced below, they were ALL gone:

last facebook user name

Generic Names Have Their Downsides

This is a disaster.  You see, I have robertjmoore for everything.  Name the extremely popular online service and I’ve got the account name robertjmoore.  You can tweet me at @robertjmoore.  I even own www.robertjmoore.com!  So, for the first time in my life, I find myself in a position where I would be willing to part with real cash for a piece of Facebook functionality: a vanity URL marketplace.  I would pay $100 cash right now for facebook.com/robertjmoore.  I don’t know who got the facebook URL (some guy in MD), but I have a feeling he might be willing to part with it for even less.  The difference is a revenue opportunity for Facebook.  As fans of our Web 2.0 rap video know, they could use it.

As of right now, me getting my hands on the URL I want (even with cash in hand) is literally impossible.  Facebook’s current policy is that once you claim a vanity URL it’s yours forever and there is no changing it, trading it, selling it, etc.  Someone else has facebook.com/robertjmoore and they’re going to have it forever.  But, this puts Facebook in a fantastic strategic position: with exclusive control over vanity URL transfers, it could have a monopoly on the vanity URL aftermarket and be the sole facilitator of vanity URL bids, offers, and sales.  And, I’d bet they could take as high as a 25% commission and still end up with a thriving marketplace.  And, they could do it all without alienating their membership, since members don’t have to pay for a vanity URL, they just might have to pay for the one they really want.  Moreover, some lucky Facebookers might actually earn some unexpected cash by selling off their URLs.

In fairness to Facebook, however, if I was planning to open up a marketplace like this, I would be acting just like they are now:  Give people the impression that they’re stuck with their URL forever so that squatters don’t waste their one shot by grabbing embarrassing (but potentially high resale value) names like www.facebook.com/mesothelioma (taken), www.facebook.com/hairremoval (taken), and the like.   After everyone has had a chance to get their own name, lock up any potentially high-value names that are left and sell them yourself, while simultaneously facilitating an aftermarket that can be forced to only exist within your (commission-collecting) system.  It’s brilliant.

So, Facebook, I hope you’re listening: please let me buy my URL (and feel free to keep a big chunk of my purchase price)!  In the meantime, you can befriend me here (let’s hope high-value keywords pay off): http://www.facebook.com/BusinessIntelligence.

11 Comments

  1. Posted June 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Completely agree. I got a marginally acceptable variant of my name — that is to say, a nickname that I haven’t historically used, but like — but wonder what’s going to happen someday when I get married and it changes. Of course I realize that in this enlightened society I can just keep my maiden name, but Facebook consistency shouldn’t be the driving factor for one’s identity choices.

    Of course, it’s still possible to turn the tables on Facebook with a redirect: http://www.your-chosen-domain.com/facebook

    But I think you’re right that it’ll open up later, once the squatting is under control.

  2. Michael Campbell
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Amen. It’s nigh impossible for me to get a decent login anywhere.

  3. Posted June 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    They use my name on example credit cards. I feel your pain.

  4. John Doe
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    You got nothing on me . . people always assume I’m dead.

  5. David C.
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to have to disagree here. It would be terrible etiquette if a big website like Facebook were to take money to take away someone else’s username/unique URL so that someone else who wasn’t fast enough could have it.

    As much as I understand where you’re coming from, you were simply too late to get robertjmoore, and the person who did get that Facebook URL should not be penalized because of your willingness to pay cash.

  6. jakestein
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    David,
    Bob was suggesting that facebook allow him to buy the url from the guy who registered it, and maybe take a commission on the transaction. This would give the other Robert Moore the option to make some cash, or keep the URL if the offer is not good enough. That’s not penalizing him, just giving him an option.

  7. Posted June 13, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I felt they should have asked for cash to reserve a vanity URL. That would have been a hefty chunk of operating capital.

    Next time the bank has you sign that your not that “Robert Moore”, be sure to put his URL on the form…

  8. David C.
    Posted June 13, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Woops. Disregard me, then.

  9. Michael Smith
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Man – with a name like Michael Smith, I knew what was coming, but still… I typed in msmith within the first second that the window opened, but it was already gone… as was michael.smith, smitty, smithy, you name it. All within the first 5 seconds.

    Someone suggested that Facebook employees got first dibs, I guess that must be the case, but still!

  10. Posted June 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    My name was taken as well – I initially assumed I’d lost it fairly to someone else named Andrea Santiago.

    HOWEVER, a squatter has taken both http://www.facebook.com/AndreaSantiago and http://www.facebook.com/Andrea.Santiago – both addresses lead to a fake, friend-less FB account for a “Sophia Berry”. I hope facebook will do something about this.

  11. Posted August 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Dude I hear you!!!!


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