Facebook Kicks Off Vanity URL Rush Tonight

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Amy Belmonte is bracing for a late night.

At exactly 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday, Belmonte plans to be online, at the ready to personalize her Facebook page the moment the company gives users the green light.

"It's just a matter of me staying up late enough to do it," said the 30-year-old office manager from Meriden, Conn.

For the first time, the mammoth social-networking site is letting users personalize their Facebook pages in what some people have been calling a virtual land rush.

VIDEO: Facebook Vanity URLs
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On a first-come, first-served basis, Facebook users will have the option to claim variations of their names or other nicknames of their choosing.

For example, instead of a Facebook URL littered with numbers and random letters, Belmont could get www.facebook.com/amybelmonte or a similar Web address with the nickname of her choice.

MySpace, Twitter Already Let Users Personalize URLs

MySpace, Twitter and other social-networking sites already let users personalize their pages. This change brings Facebook into line with its competitors.

Facebook Gets Easier
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"We're planning to offer Facebook usernames to make it easier for people to find and connect with you," Facebook designer Blaise DiPersia wrote on the company's blog. "When your friends, family members or co-workers visit your profile or Pages on Facebook, they will be able to enter your username as part of the URL in their browser. This way people will have an easy-to-remember way to find you."

Although it doesn't know what the participation level will be, the company said it's prepared for a spike in activity.

"We did quite a bit of testing before launching the feature and we've taken several steps to account for an increased traffic load," said Larry Yu, a spokesman for Facebook.

Some personalities and businesses, such as President Barack Obama and General Electric, already have personalized Facebook URLs. But this change will make everyone with a personalized Web address more searchable on Google and Facebook.

Members of the technorati and early adopters are expected to scramble for their names the moment the appointed time arrives. But Adam Ostrow, an editor at the popular social media blog Mashable, thinks regular old Facebook users might take a bit more time to customize their pages.

To Prevent Squatting, Users Can't Change or Transfer Chosen URLs

"I think users of other sites are certainly used to having one and Facebook is promoting the fact that they're going to enable this," he said.

While people accustomed to MySpace and Twitter might not spend their Friday nights camped out at their computers, as they see their friends migrating to personalized pages, they'll likely follow suit, he said.

Noah Perabo, a 30-year-old New Yorker who works in the music industry, doesn't intend to sideline his Friday night plans, but as soon as it's convenient, he plans to snag his user name of choice.

Since January, he has been keeping a blog on the New York music scene. But now that he's trying to reach a bigger audience, he'd like a destination that's easier to find.

He has been trying to change his blog's Web address from blackraptor.wordpress.com to blackraptor.com but "now that the opportunity to get the name on Facebook is here, I want to try to take advantage of it," he said.

Facebook: No Transferring, No Changing Names

Instead of his name, he hopes to grab "Blackraptor," but he added, "It's kind of a hobby, so it's not like I'll be heartbroken if someone else gets to it first."

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