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Do Facebook Vanity URLs Equal Kill Twitter Vol. 2?

This past Friday, Facebook started issuing vanity URLs to its 200 million-plus community. It was a big change for the social-networking company that has so far used unique numerical identifications to identify its members.

Not anymore — now you can go to and friend me. It was such a major event that, even on the weekend, it was the talk of Twitter, Facebook’s rival social network.

Some have viewed this move towards vanity URLs as a way for Facebook to get more search engine juice. In reality, it might be Facebook’s next attack on Twitter. Facebook earlier this year launched status updates. With vanity URLs, it’s now getting into the name space business, something Twitter really excels at.

It makes sense for Facebook to do this — it is set up as a multi-purpose communication platform that lacks the ease of use of a Twitter. So why not offer the same things? By making it easy for people to identify themselves on Facebook using their real (or almost real) IDs, the company can get people to start using their Facebook handles.

A friend of mine today speculated that it is only a matter of time before Facebook starts offering an @replies service. I totally agree, and it would be the most obvious thing for Facebook to do. Just like you can point a comment to me by typing @om on Twitter, it is a safe bet you’ll be able to do the same on Facebook. It will increase the utility of Facebook as a communications platform. It will also increase the number of times one has to use Facebook, which means boosting page views and more advertising revenue. Of course, in the process, if Facebook can take a big bite out of Twitter’s growth, I am sure Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to complain.

48 Responses to “Do Facebook Vanity URLs Equal Kill Twitter Vol. 2?”

  1. Anonymous

    i dont think at this moment. #1 I have a facebook page for one of my businesses ( and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get for this group/page or whatever it’s called. it won’t let you change the name so we are stuck with a group name that includes a description, so when we (if we) start using facebook significantly and promote it we will need to create a brand new set of pages from scratch…

    i’m only 30, and i don’t claim to be an expert at anything, but some of this FB stuff looks like it was designed by an 18 year old with no real world experience and no user acceptance…

    i use twitter to keep a list of the most interesting articles on, it’s business oriented, people join just so they can get a “news wire” of what I think is important….. facebook for the most part will be a personal network with some minor business overlap still for some time to come. many of the people on FB i know are in totally different worlds then i am in. eventually the static from having 500+ friends like i see some people having will be a dead weight on that system…

    at that point u become a filter source of information

  2. This is a good way to quickly access your friend’s Facebook or your own account. The URL is going to be very useful. I have no idea what you are talking about with “Facebook is blindly following failed Twitter.” Tell me your reasons or examples that Twitter is failing.

  3. christine harrison

    I think Facebook needs to be really careful here. Customization, in my opinion, is part of why myspace stopped working for users. The uniform profile and home page appearance makes it faster for people to browse and interact.

    In addition, Facebook was built on networks; people finding eachother through a common thread. Usernames being optional is fine, but like Twitter, Facebook should err on the side of caution and keep it simple.

  4. As long as Facebook requires mutual relationships, it won’t directly compete with Twitter. I have started removing friends from Facebook because I’m tired of seeing updates from people I don’t really know that well, or find very interesting. Twitter and Facebook still seem to me to be very different communications mediums.

    Additionally, since Facebook allows wall posts and comments, is there any real advantage is a status update sent to someone directly? It’s already implemented in some manner.

  5. I think the username thing is silly; it’s making it more like the other ‘social networking websites’, and well, things are better when it’s not all the same. Yeah, it’d be nice to know when people talk about you whatever with @’s, but at the same time, there goes the time spent searching around others pages.

  6. Skeuomorph

    With an @user reply, the people following you have attention drawn to others you follow.

    Seems to me as though Facebook’s “Wall-to-Wall” is similar, letting someone that has you as a friend see there is a back and forth discussion between you and another friend they may not know.

  7. Josh Porter at Bokardo had a great post on interface (he has many)…but immediate and simple and everything right there as soon as you interface. Twitter has that because it’s architecture is that… …facebook is trying to do that after you walk through the museum of interface that is facebook.

  8. Om–yes, you can where this is going. I had the same thought, after Facebook implemented “real-time” updates that @ replies couldn’t be that far away. One of the major social limitations is not being able to reference multiple people easily in a status update on Facebook.

    The tagging feature of Facebook Notes is a good first step, but @ replies would be much better.

  9. I don’t see how (or why) you would use the @ replies feature in Facebook. The fundamental difference between FB & Twitter is that you only follow “friends’ on FB but on Twitter you can follow anybody so the @ reply system makes sense to get someone to notice you or give them a shout out. On FB you can comment and like something but to @ reply somebody you don’t know, you would have to know their / handle which means you would have to search for them, at which point you can always message them, which is a feature that exists already. So unless Facebook is going to make everyone’s profile public (which they sort of do right now albeit in a limited way), I don’t see the point of these vanity URLs except for businesses who can print them on their marketing materials. Perhaps 1 day we will all carry personal business cards with our Facebook / handle on them…

  10. I dunno, Om, I’m not buying it. Just because Facebook might want to move into various arenas in the “web 2.0” world, doesn’t automatically mean that it’ll be successful at them. Witness Google, or, better, Microsoft’s constant attempts to introduce something relevant and interesting. I find that I pay less attention to Facebook than Twitter already, and with the dearth of a healthy third-party ecosystem, I can’t see Facebook becoming more engaging or interesting.

    Now if I were at Facebook I know what I’d be focusing on: the email system. Make it graceful and easy for people to communicate privately and to groups, make it a real competitor to Gmail, and now you have a platform upon which you can build a case that it’s the go-to site for social media.

  11. I just don’t see it touching twitter in that regard. Facebook is just used differently by the common user, I call it my #my100 less than 10 have Twitter, and none use it yet. But I refuse to feed my FB stream with constant chatter. The FB world doesn’t want that.

    ^—- I did nothing but repost the tweets I sent you about 2am this morning.

  12. / if that were the case why would they not just use @. Perhaps another example of reactionary and slow “TB” syndrome…growing “too big” too quickly into a corporate structure where decisions are made by making sure “you pissed on the rock”. Polaroid, GM, etc… have all either failed because of this corporate syndrome, Google comes out with a great idea in Wave but the usability, for the everyday user…looks like you would have to go to pilot’s school… etc… facebook is not leading it’s following now… and playing “we are more innovative than them”
    Pretty sure if they were leading they would have just adopted the @. This looks like a big, corporate, group decision to try and go after something that is leading. If facebook and other companies don’t want to go the way of myspace…or Polaroid… figure out how to not suffer from TB growth. It effects the “innovative system”.

    • If simplicity is twitters Advantage, then i would say that its also a great disadvantage too for twitter.
      I mean there is no service to manage your followers or non-followers, there is always a follow , no-follow game going on twitter.

      Anyway i think twitter would be in real trouble if facebook will add @replies feature too.

  13. Ah ha! Ok now. Dave Morin’s comment that the “/ is the new @” makes way more sense!

    Brilliant move by Facebook, that is, if Zuckerberg and the 800 employees at Facebook act on implementing an @replies service! That would immediately endanger twitter of extinction.

    I welcome the unified communication potential of @replies integrated right within Facebook. Plus Facebook “feeds” (friend lists) functionality will be a huge advantage over the highly simplistic twitter web client which lacks groups.

    Twitter has really sat on their own hands for entirely too long – innovate or die. Twitter’s failure to improve the web client has really surprised me, especially since we see so many client tools and greasemonkey scripts which clearly add value; yet, twitter has not implemented these – with the exception of the @mentions behavior.

    Thanks Om, nice article!

  14. But, doesn’t Twitter have a much richer ecosystem of third-party services?

    On top of that, I find that I LEARN so much more from my Twitter community (which I have conscientiously cultivated) than I can comparatively learn from my Facebook circle of friends!