Facebook is further embracing the real name culture it touts as one of its founding principles — and catching up with rival MySpace in the process.
Starting at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, the popular online hangout's millions of users will be able to claim a name to use as part of their profile page's Web address — as in http://facebook.com/janedoe. Currently, Facebook assigns each profile a string of numerals over which users have no control.
Fan pages for businesses, brands and celebrities will be able to adopt such names, too, but they had to have been on the site by May 31, with at least 1,000 "fans" at that time.
Facebook said people will be able to choose the names on a first-come, first-served basis, so if your name is John Smith and not, say, Blaise DiPersia (a Facebook designer who posted about the changes on the site's blog), it might be a good idea to stake one out early.
To avoid "squatting" on popular names, only users who joined Facebook before 3 p.m. Tuesday will be able to sign up for usernames on Saturday. Everyone else will have to wait until June 28.
In allowing such names, Facebook is playing catch-up with News Corp.-owned MySpace, which has let its users pick their own monikers since its 2004 launch. MySpace says about 90 percent of its active users have set up such "vanity URLs."