Like hundreds of thousands of others apparently, I grabbed a vanity URL On Facebook Friday night. (I’m www.facebook.com/jay.jamison.) As it was all the rage in the geekosphere, I was aware it was happening. As the Penguins had just won Game 7 and their 3rd Stanley Cup, I was at home, happy, and ready to jump onto Facebook and grab my URL.
The experience was no fuss and quick. I was surprised in that sense, as I’d expected to have long queues as Facebooks servers melted with everyone trying to get their URL. Didn’t happen–the whole thing took about 30 seconds.
So after grabbing my URL, I then finally gave some thought as to what was so important or not about these “Vanity URLs.” Some, like Om Malik, speculate that it may take a bite out of Twitter’s growth. I disagree with Om on this–I think the nature of the conversations and interaction in Twitter is fundamentally different than Facebook. Having Vanity URLs might make groups of friends on FBK have more Twitter-y like conversations, I suppose. But as a user of both services, I still see them as fundamentally different. Facebook’s a place where I share with friends updates, thoughts, photos, etc. on a range of topics. Twitter is in a sense more universal–it’s like a user-generated teletype news feed with people I know and those I don’t. Vanity URLs don’t really change that for FBK, @replies won’t do all that much either, as my circle of friends already kind of do this in a klugey way in conversations on FBK.
So I don’t see this as a shot across Twitter’s bow, really. Instead, I think this is more about making it easy for Facebook to grab and secure the next genertion of users. What I mean here is that I expect that web-based email is going to feel the brunt of this move. If you’re 13 say, and starting to use computers more deeply, why are you really going to need web mail now? You aren’t. You just grab your little Vanity URL, and you tell the world you’re http://www.facebook.com/your.name. I’d think the groups more directly impacted in the short term are not Twitter, but gmail, hotmail, aol im, etc.