Put that coffee pot on simmer: tonight is the night to claim your Facebook vanity URL. At 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time, users can log in and transform their digital identities from a mishmash of numbers and letters to a real-looking name.
Facebook's move is clearly getting other digital water coolers thinking about their own policies. Twitter has already taken action.
Although Twitter has always provided users with URLs that make actual sense, it is taking identity one step further and will now verify certain user accounts to ensure fraudulence doesn't run naked and screaming through the virtual streets.
Many celebrities of different creeds have complained about phony Twitter accounts distributing misinformation, a violation of Twitter's TOS. Now "public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation" can nab their very own "verified" symbol and readers can rest assured that Miley Cyrus is, in fact, eating a bowl of Cheerios and not, as previously reported, having a latte with friends.
I joke, but the service is important to establishing the credibility of high-profile Twitter accounts. But is Twitter catering to the least-important personas?
Twitter says it hopes to verify more accounts in the future, "but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set." That small set is small-scale. To revisit my analogy of Cheerios and lattes -- there doesn't exist a highly damaging potential in that breed of misrepresentation. However, if a multinational company's finances were grossly tarnished on Twitter, the ramifications could impact the already-shaky financial market and cause yet another catastrophe.
Twitter likely has plans to roll out its verification service to for-profit business, but for now, such security does not exist.
One must cater to one's core audience, and it's become evident that Twitter isn't a social networking site for everyone -- it's a one-sided conversation, mostly conducted by celebrities. But by putting its energies into the entities that brought it popularity, Twitter is missing the opportunity for legitimacy.
This newfound rush to establish a digital identity is an important step in Internet culture, and may have many positive outcomes -- community and individuality are just two that come to mind. But in order to ride the wave of the future, Twitter needs to get its priorities straight and transform itself into something other than a place for Cheerios and lattes.