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Facebook Usernames

Moving the goalposts: Facebook Usernames for Companies

August 10, 2009

OUT-LAW commented recently on Facebook’s offer to companies to notify them of any trade marks that they wished to reserve prior to the rolling out of the username system.  It was hoped that this would act to counter cybersquatting.

So, Facebook’s recent announcement to companies who pre-registered to protect their company trade marks from misappropriation, that they cannot protect their intellectual property rights unless they get a Facebook Page, is noteworthy.

We have previously mentioned Facebook’s username policy changes here and here.

For companies hoping to establish a strong online presence the opportunity to register their Pages presented an interesting opportunity. Instead of, the Azrights page could be located at a much more memorable

Initially, the minimum requirements to register a username for a company page included having had one thousand fans, or people that had expressed an interest in the page, by the 31st of May. For popular musicians, or big-name companies running promotional offers, this restriction had very little impact. However, such a target is out of reach for smaller businesses, or businesses less likely to cultivate a similar following.

Later it became clear that this requirement was only temporary, and registration would be opened to all on the 28th of June, but when that date arrived the policy changed once again, and the minimum fan base was set at twenty five. This modest requirement did not last long, and it currently stands at one hundred fans.

This inconsistent behaviour led to a great deal of confusion, and supports the impression that the supposed trade mark protection strategy was in fact a marketing exercise designed to encourage companies to register a Facebook presence, and then to promote it.  Otherwise, what is the reason for changing the number of fans needed to register a Page?

Unless another change occurs many businesses will find themselves unable to register a username for their page. Is this a problem? As explained in earlier posts participation in social media and the reputation of a company on the internet are becoming increasingly important to businesses. A Facebook page will attract more visitors with a shorter, catchier URL that consumers can remember, or even guess, and for this reason groups have sprouted to help members overcome the fan base barrier to registration.

Azrights recently made the half way mark, but as a law firm we are much less likely to attract a fan base than a rock star. Does that make us less deserving of our own Facebook username? It is desirable that opportunists are prevented from registering Azright, Azmights, Aznights and so on as usernames, but perhaps sacrificing the functionality Facebook is trying to protect, by setting the entry requirements too high, is going too far.