Facebook Snatches User's Vanity URL And Sells It To Harman International

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Update: Facebook Gives Harman His Name Back, Apologizes

This looks really, really bad. An avid Facebook user named Harman Bajwa says that his Facebook vanity Url – Facebook.com/Harman – was unceremoniously revoked yesterday for violating Facebook’s policies. His new Facebook URL is the much less memorable facebook.com/profile.php?id=538612932.

Facebook then apparently did a sales deal around the vanity URL with Harman International.

The notice from Facebook (also in image at bottom of post):

Please Read This!
Warning

The username you selected was removed for violating Facebook’s policies. A Facebook username should have a clear connection to one’s identity. In addition, impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited. If you see other people with usernames that do not accurately represent their real names, it is only because they have not yet been removed for misuse.

To select a new username, please visit the following link:

http://www.facebook.com/username

Thanks for your understanding,

The Facebook Team

There’s just one problem. “Harman” as a vanity URL is perfectly appropriate as a username for someone named Harman Bajwa. Facebook’s VP Global Sales Mike Murphy has /mike, for example, much to my personal annoyance.

And while we’re on the topic of Mike Murphy, he may actually be the guy behind all of this. It turns out that the reason Facebook wants to take back that /Harman vanity URL may be more about money and less (much less) about policy violations.

That’s because Harman also received an email yesterday from a representative of Harman International, which is apparently “working with Facebook” to take the /Harman username for a initiative they’re doing around the Grammy Awards. They’re offering “promotional items” to Harman to hand the name over willingly:

From: Tyler Bahl
To: Harman Bajwa
Sent: Fri, January 22, 2010 11:25:21 AM
Subject: Harman

Hi Harman,

Thanks for accepting my friend request on Facebook.

I’m the emerging media strategist at Carat in Boston and I work on the Harman International account. We’re launching our first initiative in partnership with the GRAMMYS on Monday. Harman International is looking to obtain the vanity url facebook.com/harman for their Facebook fan page.

We are currently working with Facebook to reclaim (http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=896#/help.php?page=899) the username, but I wanted to explore opportunities to work with you to acquire the name. In the past, we have offered product in exchange for social domain names. One case in mind was for the new movie Avatar , we were able to give promotional items to the owner of twitter.com/avtr for Coke Zero.

Do you have time to connect today to discuss this opportunity in more detail?

Best,

-tb

We’ve reached out to Facebook PR for comment, although the evidence, unless fake, sort of speaks for itself. This is actually one of those times that I’m hoping that we’re being duped somehow, because telling users they’ve done something wrong when really all you’re doing is pursuing a sales quota is really, really distasteful. We’ll update with any comment.

Harman, to his credit, isn’t all that angry. “It would be great if I get my User name back,” he said in an email to me, adding that he’s working on a startup that will launch next summer.

Rest assured, Harman, we’ll be covering it.

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