x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Millions join Facebook URL rush

UAE residents have joined millions of people in a global rush to claim personalised internet addresses for their Facebook pages.

UAE residents have joined millions of people in a global rush to claim personalised internet addresses for their Facebook pages. The social networking site has 200 million members and consistently rates in the top 10 most-visited websites in the UAE. Previously, internet addresses for members' profile pages on the website consisted only of random series of numbers as a suffix to facebook.com.

From Saturday, Facebook began what was dubbed by the media as a digital turf stampede by offering what is known as vanity URLs or web addresses - the chance to personalise the web address by using real names or nicknames as the web suffix. For example, Joe Smith's profile could be accessed quickly at www.facebook.com/joe, instead of ploughing through thousands of Joe Smiths listed on the site. More than six million people have taken up the new option, including many in the UAE who grabbed suffixes such as facebook.com/emirati and /alnahyan and /dubaiboy.

Others from outside the UAE registered suffixes such as facebook.com/zayed and /maktoum, /sheikh, /Sheikha and /Bedouin. Some names have already begun appearing for resale, although apparently no bids have been made yet. Facebook.com/dubaigirl has been put up for sale on assetize.com, an auction website for those who wish to buy or sell online accounts. DubaiGirl was listed on Facebook as belonging to Dave Davy, who, when contacted by e-mail by The National, said the online identity was available for a "generous bid".

"I was getting this username for someone as a gift but I found out that she got a special one and would like to keep it," Dave Davy wrote. "So, after that and while I was surfing the net I stumbled upon some article about a FB [Facebook] username that is considered to be a smart choice and desirable and from there I was referred to assetize.com. "I just posted it to see what a cool username like DubaiGirl would be worth."

One day after offering to sell facebook.com/dubaigirl on assetize.com, no bids had been made. But by then the listing for the page's originator had changed to Sarah Davy. When contacted again, Davy wrote: "I'm a female. Actually I'm Egyptian studying in Wollongong, Australia, and I visited Dubai many times on my way to Egypt for vacations." Facebook blocked thousands of potential suffixes before offering personalised internet addresses, aiming to avoid concerns that people would grab names belonging to trademarked companies or products, a practice known as cybersquatting.

Even so, some users claimed the suffixes including /larrypage and /Sergey.Brin - the names of Google's founders ? and /schwarzenegger, /limbaugh, /republicanparty and even facebook.com/Ahmadinejad. jhenzell@thenational.ae