Google+ does have vanity URLs after all

When Google+ launched last year, a lot of people, myself included, lamented the fact that you couldn't set an easy-to-remember slug, 'vanity URL' or handle, or whatever you want to call it (like you can in Twitter or Facebook), instead having to use a rather difficult to remember string of figures (mine, for instance, is

Until now, all the services Google has offered have been linked to one’s Google username and necessarily tied to a Google account—the ‘you’ component in the mail address that always goes with your account and is used to sign in to any Google service. This resulted in pretty massive privacy issues when Google launched Buzz where, among other problems, your gmail address could be deduced from your Buzz username.


The danger in creating an instant social network around email contacts, as Google Buzz does with Gmail, is that the boundaries between what is private and what is public are not always clear.

Whereas in Facebook your username is not in any way tied to your login credentials (which are always an email address, and can’t be a address), Google+ is now stuck with an unworkable system, in which most user names have already been taken and many are actually dormant [i].

As a result, a lot of hacks sprang up to set up an easier to remember URL, my favourite being the htaccess redirect one.

By looking this morning at the source code for a Google employee's personal website, I noticed he included a rel=me link to a[his name], in which the last part of the URL was actually the same as the first part of his Gmail account: when I tried out that URL in a browser, I was redirected to his Google+ profile. I then tried seeing what happened when I substituted my Google account (the one tied to my Google+ profile) for his—and, sure enough, I got redirected to my own Google+ profile

In other words, although Google doesn't advertise the fact—probably to save itself embarrassment—if you're happy about sharing your Gmail address, you actually have had a Google+ vanity URL all along, though with the crucial twin drawbacks that (1) it exposes your privacy in a way you may not like and (2) you still can't change it to something other than your Gmail address.

  1., for instance, isn’t available, although one can hope that its existing owner is the ‘real’ Mr Rose and not a less illustrious namesake: thus if another Kevin Rose has once signed up for a Gmail accounts, years ago, and he hasn’t used it since, our Kevin Rose won’t be able to use that username with a hypothetical Google+ vanity URL, until Google throw in the towel and finally give up tying user names to Gmail login credentials.