Facebook has announced that they are about to release vanity URLs. What most people don't realize is that this move, while interesting, is not really about vanity URLs at all - it's actually about addressable identity.
One of Twitter's key advantages in the race for dominance over internet identity is their growing namespace of what I call Addressable Identities.
What are they I hear you ask? An example of an Addressable Identity is being able to write '@chrissaad' and have the system and users understand that it is a direct and concrete reference to me. This form of addressing is particularly interesting because it is easy to write in a sentence or micro-blog.
With Vanity URLs, Facebook will encourage users to specify a tidy/tiny/compact identity identifier by which friends/followers/others can reference/point to each other. This is a big step towards keeping up with Twitter as one of the web's only providers of modern addressable identities (email is an old, less compact version of this).
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and how we consolidate these namespaces when using 3rd party services.
It might ultimately have to end up like good old email:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com etc.
Ideally though, we should be able to use our own/personal email address and have it resolve to an OpenID for true, federated and open addressable identity.
That, however, is still some way away.