Usernames Will Kill Facebook

The social networking site's latest move will make it like any other website: indistinguishable.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Let's talk about this weekend's other big media quake.

No, not the switch to digital television broadcasting. I figure that only a few old ladies in Boise are going to be left behind on that one, though you will never know it from the media storm.

I'm talking 'bout Facebook.

To the amusement and (at times, no doubt) chagrin of my children, nieces and nephews, I enjoy my time on Facebook. It has given me a chance to catch up with cousins, friends and co-workers who slipped out of touch over the years. And since I no longer work in a bustling newsroom, but in quiet research libraries or at my desk in our converted attic, Facebook helps me escape, virtually, from a writer's monkish seclusion.

But Facebook is undergoing a big change. Tomorrow morning at a minute after midnight, its gazillion members will get to choose a username, which will open their Facebook page to easy Google searches and other intrusions from the world wide web.

Over at The Daily Beast, the media writer, Douglas Rushkoff, explains what this means.

Its only competitive advantage in the Internet space—it's only reason for being—was that it was more personal, more closed off, and arguably more private than the Internet itself.

Now my Facebook home page will be just one more home page on the net. And that raises an interesting question.

Now that we'll be quickly findable via Google, what's left to distinguish this social-networking site from the social network that is ... the Internet?

Without such a raison d'etre, he says, Facebook may be doomed.

That shift, I believe, portends the beginning of the end for this social network," he writes. "That may sound preposterous, but the short history of the Internet is littered with quickly fallen giants. They all appear to be permanent features of the digital landscape—Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Napster, CompuServe—until they're not. A minute after midnight on Saturday may just be the moment 200 million more people find themselves thrown firmly onto the Internet, and in the process make Mark Zuckerberg's digital wading pool obsolete."

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