Facebook Inc, the largest social-networking site, said members registered user names at a rate of more than 550 a second in the 15 minutes after the company offered people the chance to claim personalised Web addresses.
Facebook started accepted registrations at midnight New York time on a first-come, first-served basis. Within the first seven minutes, 345,000 people had claimed user names, said Larry Yu, a spokesman for Palo Alto, California-based Facebook. Within 15 minutes, 500,000 users had grabbed a name.
“We saw high traffic, higher than usual traffic,” Yu said. “Planning allowed us to handle that traffic well.”
Facebook, which has more than 200 million users worldwide, allowed users to select one unique name, letting them create a Web address for their Facebook profile, such as http://www.facebook.com/david. Previously, addresses typically contained a sequence of numbers. The aim, Facebook says, is to make it easier to find profiles using search engines such as Google Inc.
Each name needs to be unique, which created a rush among users to snag their preferred names before anyone else.
Shirley Ong, a 26-year-old marketing manager in Singapore, said her palms were sweaty as she counted down the final seconds before she could choose a user name. A friend in Toronto and her brother in Vancouver were also logged onto Facebook to claim their names, she said.
After the clock struck noon in Singapore, someone had already grabbed “Shirley.” Ong settled for her full name. She said she’s not too disappointed.
“It was a really funny experience,” Ong said. “Sadly, this is also the most fun I have had all week — counting down and waiting to register my name.”
Facebook lets people share photos, post updates on what they’re doing, and send messages to each other. After users have set their new name, they have the option to publish it in their “stream,” or the rolling list of updates they share with friends, Facebook said.
Facebook, whose investors include Microsoft Corp. and venture-capital firm Accel Partners, was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 as a social-networking service for his classmates at Harvard University. The company generates sales through advertising, and expects revenue to climb 70 per cent this year, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in April.
Facebook said it encouraged individuals or companies that have intellectual-property rights to their names to contact the site to reserve or protect them.
The company is taking steps to prevent so-called squatting — users signing up for names just to prevent someone else from having them. Users can’t transfer their names to other accounts. The company will also only allow users to claim a name if they had an account before the feature was announced June 9. This will prevent people from creating new accounts just to grab their addresses, Facebook said. That restriction lifts on June 28.
Still, the land grab will likely trigger disputes over corporate names, said Howard Weller, a partner in the New York office of law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP.
“Facebook is going to spend a lot of time mediating these disputes,” Weller said. For corporations and other trademark owners, “it’s clearly an opportunity to advance the brand, but it also invites a headache.”
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