Facebook starts verifying popular accounts

By Brittany Darwell Comment

Facebook will allow a small number of public figures to verify their accounts beginning today, a spokesperson from the company confirms.

Users with verified accounts will appear more often in “People To Subscribe To” recommendations on the site, but unlike on Twitter and Google+, there will be no visual indication that a profile is official. These users will also have the option to display their more well-known pseudonyms, if applicable. For example, Curtis Jackson could choose to go by his stage name 50 Cent across the site, instead of displaying it as an alternate name as he does now. (See image below.)

Facebook says users with a large number of subscribers will see a notification to verify their accounts. Not everyone who allows subscribers will see this option, and for now, users cannot request to be verified.

What this does

For Facebook, verifying accounts seems to be about improving its recommendations systems. Recommendation modules around the site have been key to the growth of the social network’s new subscribe feature. This will ensure that Facebook is presenting users with the real profiles of people they’re in which interested.

Serving quality recommendations and being flexible about names helps Facebook compete with Twitter as a platform for asymmetrical relationships. Public figures who are known by pseudonyms will appreciate the option to display that name more prominently. A verified user’s birth name will still be shown in the About section of Timeline.

What this doesn’t do

Currently, there isn’t a way for users to definitively tell whether an account is the official profile of someone to whom they want to subscribe. There are already plenty of fake celebrity profiles on the site, and as more public figures begin to use Facebook, the number of impostors will likely increase. The company will need to do something to distinguish its verified accounts or work harder to eliminate the fakes.

Facebook didn’t offer details on how verification might affect search. Subscriber numbers do not currently seem to influence how a user is ranked in search. This is frustrating for users and could lead some people to connect with fake pages.