Claiming Online Identities in Facebook

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What is a name worth?

It depends, but it can be worth a great deal (pardon the pun) in the right circumstances. Identity is very important as it allows others to identify you, to let them know who you are, what you do, perhaps what you believe or represent, how they might find you, and how people remember you.

Similar to the Wild West & Gold Rush, back in the 1990s when the Internet was starting to take off, there was a mad dash to claim custom web addresses. There were numerous instances in which an individual would purchase various custom URL names with company or institution names, such as WallStreet.com (later bought for $1 million), AltaVista.com (3.3 million), and Bingo.com ($1.1 million) (Marlatt, 1999). These “digital squatters” hold on to these names in hope of cashing out later from the entity with that name. Below is a table with companies who pay the highest amount as of 1999 to get a name they wanted. While the dates are old, one can see that identities are very important and profitable to some.

URL PRICE YEAR

ALTAVISTA.COM $3.35M 1998
BINGO.COM $1.1M PLUS[*] 1999
WALLSTREET.COM $1.03M 1999
ROCK.COM $1M[*] 1999
UNIVERSITY.COM $530,000 1999
COMPUTER.COM $500,000 1999
BLACKJACK.COM $460,000 1999
BUSINESS.COM $150,000 1997
INTERNET.COM $100,000 1997

* PRICE INCLUDES STOCK AND/OR FUTURE REVENUE SHARING.
SOURCE: INTERNET WORLD

These events are not new, and they will undoubtedly continue. In fact, Facebook opened up the ability claim your own custom Facebook web address last Friday (e.g. http://facebook.com/yourname). It is no surprise that Facebook users jumped at claiming their “own” address, as well as other addresses.

Sadly, it did not take long for scam artists to realize if they keep a similar sounding URL name & make it look like the official web site, such as Bankofamerica.com and Bankofamerica.net, they can setup malicious sites and steal the identity and log in info of individuals. I expect the same could potentially happen in Facebook. However, one thing that Facebook has in its favor that the World Wild Internet does not is control and oversight over its users. If there are infractions and abuse, Facebook can quickly take action. Hopefully, this will be the case were appropriate and that Facebook uses common sense!

Marlatt, Andrew. 1999. “The million-dollar name game.” Internet World 5, no. 26: 29. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 18, 2009).

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on June 18, 2009, in Facebook, Social Networks, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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