Google+ launches vanity URLs, catching up to Facebook, Twitter

The tech giant starts rolling out custom URLs for certain brands and users, like +britneyspears and +toyota. Now, memorizing those long strings of numbers could be a thing of the past.

Both Twitter and Facebook have offered vanity URLs personalized to users’ accounts for years — something that has been glaringly vacant in Google Plus‘ URLs. But, that’s about to change.

Google‘s social network announced today that vanity URLs for profiles and pages are on their way. It has even begun rolling out a few for celebrities, like soccer player David Beckham and pop singer Britney Spears, along with brands like Toyota, Delta, and Hugo Boss.

Here’s what Google product manager Saurabh Sharma wrote in a blog post today:

Your Google+ profile is a place for you to share your passions with the millions of people who come to Google each day…Today we’re introducing custom URLs to make it even easier for people to find your profile on Google+. A custom URL is a short, easy to remember web address that links directly to your profile or page on Google+.

Sharma writes that at first just a few “verified profiles and pages” will get custom URLs, but eventually they will be offered to “many more” people and brands around the world. It’s not clear how Google is choosing who is “verified” and who isn’t and the timeframe for the greater inclusion of vanity URLs.

This is likely welcome news for most Google+ users since memorizing long strings of numbers isn’t exactly easy. For example, CNET’s Google+ URL is But wouldn’t be much more manageable?

In other Google+ news, the social network also announced today that it is launching a new audio setting for hangouts called “Studio Mode,” which optimizes sound specifically for music. Beforehand, hangout sound was tweaked for conversations; but now by clicking settings and switching from “Voice” to “Studio Mode,” music should sound more like a live concert than a video conference.

“Since we launched Google+ a little over a year ago, we’ve seen a thriving community of musicians connect with fans in really cool ways,” Google product manager Matthew Leske wrote in a blog post today. “In particular: singer/songwriters like +Daria Musk, bands like +Suite 709, and many others are using Hangouts On Air to perform live for global audiences, and jam with fans face-to-face.”

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

Google+ face-lift triggers jibes over extra white space

Yesterday’s revamp of Google+ leaves a hefty amount of white space on certain pages, a design change that’s brought out the comedian in many users.

(Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET)

What would you do with the extra white space now gracing the pages of Google+?

That’s a question many users of the social network have been answering with the usual sarcastic spin we always love to see on the Internet.

Launching yesterday, the latest face-lift for Google+ added a slew of changes, including a new left-side navigation bar and new ways to interact with the people in your circles.

But the one change that’s put people into full mocking mode is the new and extra-sized white space. Click on any virtually any Google+ page, and a good 40 percent is nothing but blank space.

The white-space flap has led to its own trending topic on Google+, where an array of users have chimed in with suggestions on how to use that space most effectively.

One user found the extra white space in front of his monitor a good spot to place his beer. Another put his cat in front of it. And a third angled his monitor into portrait mode to get rid of the white space entirely.

Personally, I’m a fan of white space. I think most Web pages are way too cluttered, so a little breathing room isn’t so bad. But in this case, the search giant may have gone a bit overboard. The extra space kind of makes the pages seem off-balance, like they’re going to tip over.

The obvious questions are why Google designed the pages this way and whether the company plans to use that extra real estate for other content down the road. Google didn’t immediately answer CNET’s request for comment.

A Google rep told CNET that some of the changes were indeed created for future needs.

“So while it may look clutter-free now, the idea is to give us space that will allow us to quickly grow,” the rep said. “With today’s foundational changes we can move even faster–toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.

I have hunch, though, that the company may have planned the whole “extra white space” conspiracy. It quickly turned into a trending topic and has generated lots of buzz. What better publicity could you ask for?

by Lance Whitney wears a few different technology hats–journalist, Web developer, and software trainer. He’s a contributing editor for Microsoft TechNetMagazine and writes for other computer publications and Web sites. Lance is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and he is not an employee of CNET.

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