Facebook and Twitter name names

News that Facebook will be passing out 'vanity URLs' this weekend has the blogosphere's collective boxers in a bunch. Does having your 'real' name on your Facebook or Twitter page really matter to anyone with an actual life?

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

Two days, 13 hours, and 58 seconds, as I write this. That's how much time you have left before you can claim your own personalized Facebook URL.

On June 13, at one minute past midnight eastern time, Facebook will unveil a "username" service that lets you assign the name your parents gave you to your Facebook home page.

In other words, instead of facebook.com/profile.php?id=666572545, I can be facebook.com/robertxcringely -- but only if I get there first. (Otherwise that other guy might snag it. Shhh, don't tell him.)

This news comes via a Facebook Blog post from someone called Blaise DiPersia (like that's a real name), and judging by the giddy reaction from the blogosphere, you'd think it was raining donuts on Christmas morning. Yes, those of us with mostly virtual lives do get excited over stupid things.

This is a first-come first-served, take-no-prisoners/get-your-low-latency-lines-installed-now kind of deal. I predict a small tsunami of HTTP calls that will look a heckuvalot like a DDoS attack over at Facebook.com right around 12:02 a.m.

The problem, of course, comes when your name is Robert Smith. There can only be one. And there are only so many variations of Bob, Bobby, Rob, Robbo, Smitty, etc., until you just say the hell with the vanity URL and go back to id=666784098.

What exactly is the point of having a nom de Facebook? In the future, when everything converges and there is only one social network (let's call it FaceTwitSpace Live!), it will make life slightly easier if all your identities converge under your actual name. And of course, it's really helpful for stalkers. Aside from that, it's just more digital narcissism. (Which doesn't mean I won't be in there with everybody else, desperately trying to tear off my own little corner of Facebook.)

On a related note, Twitter has announced vague plans to verify the identities of celebrities, politicians, and other notables on the site, so we can finally know it's really Lindsay Lohan tweeting about her life and not some other insane 20-something rehab refugee. Exact details on how "Verified Accounts" would actually get verified appear to exist only inside Biz Stone's head at the moment.

I'm not sure I can get entirely behind all this truthiness. The very fabric of the Net could be torn asunder. The next thing you know, actresses might be forced to verify that nude photos of themselves on the Net feature their actual (fake) breasts and not some other actress's actual (fake) breasts. Where's the fun in that?

Oops, now there's only 2 days, 12 hours, 3 minutes, and 57 seconds left before the Facebook Narcissism Fest. What am I going to do for the next 60 hours? The suspense is killing me.

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Robert X. Cringely

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