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June 12, 2009

Why Picking a Facebook URL May be More Than Vanity

Tonight there will be a rush on Facebook.com as they launch the ability to choose a profile URL such as facebook.com/yourname.  I have been doing some serious consideration into what the best one might be.

Facebook is in the best position to be the keeper of online identity.  It will very likely become the way that I will prove that I am Jason Schwartz as I travel around the Internet.  I think of my Facebook username and password like my social security code, and my profile like a state id.  Add in the information they have about my entire social graph, and in the future my Facebook URL may become the center of my online identity.  While a Facebook vanity URL seems absurdly trivial now, if my prediction turns out to be true, what I pick tonight takes on an awful lot of importance.

Here are my options:

Jason: It’s short, easy to remember, common, and will be the toughest to get before someone else does.

JasonSchwartz: My full name.  It’s long, difficult to spell, fairly common, but professional.

JasonDSchwartz: My name with my middle initial.  I go by that in a number of places because Jason Schwartz is so common.  When you Google Jason D. Schwartz you only get me.  I started doing this before I built up SEO around Jason Schwartz, but now its not quite as necessary. I also own jasondschwartz.com.

JasonS: First name last initial. Generic and common, but also short and easy.  It's also my LinkedIn URL.

Jschwa: This is my screen name, which I carefully curated over the last few years. It’s short easy to remember, easy to spell, and what I am known as throughout the Internet. Unfortunately it's a bit common as well, and sometimes it's already taken when I sign up for a new service.

I asked the members of the NY Tech Community what they're going to do:

Here are the responses.

@Woodlandalyssa: Alyssagalella (full name)

@Dens: DCrowley (first initial, last name) Because: “[Facebook] requires [more than 5 characters] so I can't be “Dens”.  I'll prob go for dcrowley. The 4 letter thing sucks”

@Evbart: Evbart (screen name) Because: “Evbart seems easier [than Evan Bartlett]”

@Kmaverick: Kmaverick (first initial, last name ALSO screen name) Because: “I use that name all across the web. Plus, when you clic

k on Facebook you get so many more details about me and my full name.”

@Ceonyc: Ceonyc (Screen name) Because: “Screen name everywhere. People use screenames b/c they are unique, self chosen. I'm the only ceonyc but not the only Charlie O'Donnell. I made me ceonyc.”

@Orian: Orian (first name ALSO screen name)

@Tmarman: Tmarman (first initial, last name ALSO screen name)

@Davidsrose: DavidSRose (first name, middle initial, last name)

@Innonate: Innonate OR Nate OR NateWestheimer (confused like me)

@MSG: Mgalpert or MichaelGalpert (first initial, last name OR first and last name) Because:  “To find me on Facebook just Google “Facebook Michael Galpert” I don’t really care for personal vanity urls, biz url is different story…I only care to have facebook.com/aviary”

@AJV “For our clients [http://vaynermedia.com], I like for them to have their real name for both twitter and FB – if the name is hard (like mine) – then initials. The biggest thing is consistency – unless you can upgrade [to a 4 letter name. Celebrities only]! If you can get facebook.com/jason – go get it!”

@Garyvee: Already has facebook.com/gary.  His advice: “1st go for name Jason then JasonSchwartz then JasonS”

It seems that everyone’s choice is dictated by what screen name they chose to begin with, and how close they got it to their actual name.   If their name is short and phonetic then their screen name is very close, and therefore they don’t have a problem keeping it consistent with their Facebook URL.

If their name is a little more complicated like Schwartz or Westheimer, the need for a creative screen name grows.  The thing about a screen name is that it’s a bit like a character or a persona.  It can take on a life of its own in a way that a persons name can’t always do.  This seems to be the situation I’m falling into with Jschwa, and deciding if I am Jschwa on the Internet, or I’m just Jason.

Ultimately I think I’m going to follow AJ and Gary’s advice and choose Jason, and if that’s taken then JasonSchwartz, and then JasonS.  Jschwa seems to fit me, but maybe not in the future, and the future is what I'm concerned with here.  I may be talking about Facebook vanity URLs for now, but who I am on Internet, and what this URL may come to represent, is a topic worth consideration.

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