Facebook is wading into territory that domain name registrars found themselves in 10 years ago. Namely, trying to figure out ‘who owns a name?’ Some notable examples include:
- J. Crew forced the owner of crew.com to give them the name even though the domain is arguably a generic English word.
- Indian megacorp TaTa successfully sued the owner (and this was my favorite dispute) of bodacioustatats.com and got the name.
Now these battles over language are being waged in yet another namespace, that of facebook.
Businesses and entrepreneurs have been warned by a leading information technology lawyer to protect brand names and trade marks ahead of plans for personalised web addresses on Facebook.
From Saturday (June 13th) users of the social networking site will be able to register their own URL address, replacing numbers with a name of their choice. This could be your brand e.g. http://www.facebook.com/irwinmitchell.
As someone who has seen the feeding frenzies that arise from these registration drives I can assure you that we are witnessing the beginning of an arms race. Once scarcity is introduced into the system people are motivated to build technology, sophisticated back stories and big legal teams to extract the value that scarcity creates. We’ll see that here too.
That is the big story here but on a more tactical level I was ticked off by their policy of tying registration into time zones. When I went to facebook today to get my personal username, I got this message:
Starting on Friday, June 12th, at 9:01pm in your time zone, you’ll be able to choose a username for your Facebook account to easily direct friends, family, and coworkers to your profile.
I was a bit ticked off (as a West Coaster) to see the bias toward those on the East Coast. By the time the sun sets on the West, all the good names will be gone. Pity poor Bob Smith.
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