The Facebook Vanity URL Fiasco
At the stroke of midnight on Friday, June 12 (technically Saturday at 12:01 AM EST), geeks all around the world will frantically login to Facebook with the attempt to land as many great vanity URLs as they can. Unsuspecting businesses around the world will think they have nothing to fear. Or do they?
There is an enormous flaw with the Facebook vanity URL registration. If you intend to register your company’s vanity URL, there is a very good chance you won’t be able to. Unless your company had a Facebook page setup prior to May 31, 2009 AND has at least 1,000 fans, you will not be eligible to claim your vanity URL during the first round of registration (the second round begins June 28, 2009).
On the flipside, if you are Joe Schmoe with a dummy profile account, you can grab that same company vanity URL, no questions asked. Unless a company has registered with Facebook to prevent the registration of their business name, the vanity URL is up for grabs. Facebook of course made it so you can’t fill out their prevention ticket, unless they provided you with a registration number to do so. I know what you’re thinking, “I’ll just have my company signup for a Facebook profile and grab it.” Wrong. Facebook does not allow companies to setup profiles, only pages. And that is where this horrible fiasco will begin.
Thousands of great brand names will be available for users to grab, because so few companies actually have over 1,000 fans. And what about the companies that have over a dozen Facebook pages setup by fans that have exceeded the 1,000 fan requirement? Take Audi, for example. There are 8 Audi Facebook pages eligible to register the vanity URL /audi/. What happens if it is a “hate” account? Twilight has a fan page called “Twilight Sucks” with over 3,000 fans. They are going to be eligible to grab the vanity URL for Twilight because they meet all of Facebook’s requirements.
Although Facebook says vanity URLs are permanent and can’t be transfered, they do reserve the right to remove the vanity URL from you. There are always loop holes, of course. Take a company like SAS for example. You could create a Facebook profile with the name Sarah Ann Stevens and claim the vanity URL /sas/. It would be hard for SAS to make a valid claim to Facebook when the person who registered it was only using their initials. And just like that a Fortune 500 company vanity URL is gone.
Your last line of defense is to fill out an Intellectual Property Infringement claim. We all know how big of a pain it is to reclaim Twitter accounts, do you really think Facebook will be any better?
Update: The registration number is your registered trademark number. My SAS example is invalid b/c the URL must be five characters long