It is very likely that sometime soon facebook will launch a localized French version (and other languages too) just like MySpace did about a year ago. Actually Facebook is starting to be quite popular in France already, even though the interface is just in English. Until today Facebook .fr was even redirecting to Facebook.com and one would have assumed that the company had acquired the fr URL until the roll out happens.
But it looks like someone else acquired the French domain name, since as of today the redirection points to another social network called “FaceBook Paris“. The whois registry does not reveal much of the identity of the owner (registered as anonymous). The provocation goes a bit further since the social network which seems active is hosted on Ning, a service that allows you to create your own social network and that can be considered a competitor to Facebook.
It is unclear what the motivations of the owner are: probably getting a good leverage to negotiate the sale of the domain to Facebook (who should have acquired it long ago), or maybe just getting some attention. What is certain is that Facebook will react in some way (maybe Ning will too) and won’t let that happen. Maybe that will end up with a cease and desist from Facebook? Maybe that will end up with a nice check? The question being, Did Facebook think of registering its trademark outside the US (this seem obvious but many companies don’t do that)? Still, one piece of advice to Facebook (and others): start registering other local domains before it is too late.
update: Facebook.fr is no longer pointing to Ning but has included a video clip that looks like an advertising in French where the author clearly announces he wishes to sell the URL.