Facebook's 200-plus million members will be able to customize the URLs to their profiles starting at midnight Eastern on Saturday, according to a post on the Facebook blog. Currently, users' profile URLs have been structured as a string of numbers. At least for now, it doesn't look like the switch is mandatory.
This is a move that will help Facebook profiles get better traction in search engines, potentially upping traffic--and give people-search sites a run for their money in the process. For brands whose "fan pages" are a crucial part of Facebook's marketing and advertising strategy, it'll make their pages easier for people to access without needing to click around much.
But there's fine print! "Think carefully about the user name you choose. Once it's been selected, you won't be able to change or transfer it," the post by Facebook's Blaise DiPersia read. "If you signed up for a Facebook Page after May 31 or a user profile after today at 3 p.m. EDT, you may not be able to sign up for a user name immediately because of steps we've taken to prevent abuse or 'squatting' on names."
There's something significant here: not being able to change or transfer your Facebook name means that it's less likely there will be a big market for them on eBay, Craigslist, or elsewhere, something that could easily get out of hand otherwise.
Also: "We expect to offer even more ways to use your Facebook user name in the future," DiPersia wrote. Presumably, this means that you'll be able to use it for Facebook Connect log-ins on external sites, rather than your e-mail address.