Friday, August 07, 2009

What's in a username?

When Facebook first offered custom URLs a couple of months ago, I was one of the millions sitting by their computer, ready to pounce on their username of choice at 12:01 a.m. on June 13.

I have long been annoyed that is taken. That's why I jumped at the chance to register @ChrisRooney on Twitter and was anxious to stake a similar claim on Facebook before any other Chris Rooney out there could beat me to it.

As many of you may recall, Facebook offered several suggested usernames and then gave the option to make up your own. "ChrisRooney" was not one of the names initially offered. I checked and it was available, but for reasons unknown to me I opted to instead use the default suggestion "chris.rooney."

I instantly regretted the move because, of course, Facebook was not allowing you to change your name once you set it. You were stuck with it (which is also why I'll never get a tattoo).

But I soon discovered something odd. Going to automatically sent you to So somehow I got both names?

Today I read on Mashable that Facebook quietly relented and now will allow people to change their usernames in their account settings. So I figured I'd officially make it "ChrisRooney" -- except Facebook told me that name was not available. Bummer, I thought, someone else must have claimed it. I plugged in the URL and surprise! It still forwards to me. Huh?!?

If Facebook wants to let me have both names, who am I to complain. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And I'd still feel better if I could officially change it.

UPDATE: Sarah explains in comments that Facebook (and Gmail for that matter) doesn't differentiate between usernames with a dot and those without one. So if you own John.Doe then you also automatically own JohnDoe. Thanks for clearing that up, Sarah!
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