Facebook giveth to journalists...well, not yet
In a clever PR move, Facebook reserved journalists' names for their vanity URLs. But then they didn't turn them on.
Several hundred journalists who cover Facebook, including me, were told by the company last week that their names had been reserved by Facebook ahead of the scheduled someone else's account (image link, NSFW language).. We were told that we didn't have to line up with the masses, that no matter when we got on the system, we wouldn't see our names on
At the time, this appeared to be a deft media relations move. Without it, some influential journalist somewhere would probably not have gotten the URL he or she wanted, leading to a backlash story about the perils and anxiety of lining up to reserve your own name. By giving us this special treatment, unearned and unrequested, Facebook quite possibly forestalled at least one, and possibly a raft of negative stories.
But here's what actually happened: Journalists' vanity accounts went into limbo. Our domain names are reserved, but as of this writing, those URLs are still offline. Meanwhile, the three million people who grabbed their names the honest way on Saturday morning got just what they signed on for: a working Facebook vanity URL. Guys like me are still just a number (I'm 500023340).
I know: Boo hoo. Pity the privileged. And you can find me and my compatriots on Facebook easily enough by searching for us via Facebook or Google. But as of this writing, if you type Facebook.com/rafeneedleman, or if you try to find other journalists online by typing their direct URLs--for example, CNET's Caroline McCarthy and Josh Lowensohn, and other prominent writers like Om Malik, Pete Cashmore, or Marshall Kirkpatrick, you'll find their branded domains are not yet hooked up.
Oh, well. I never asked Facebook for special treatment. But I wasn't expecting anyone to squat on my Facebook ID either, except possibly out of malice, which, as I said, would have made for a juicier story.
A Facebook e-mail says that the reserved usernames could get hooked into the URLs, "in the next few days (or more), while we work through the process."
Meanwhile, I'm @rafe on Twitter.