The Twitter Username Conundrum

Yesterday I mentioned to our newest team member, Paul Green that he was behind the times in choosing his corporately mandated Twitter account username. So, Paul hit up and started the signup process.

Thankfully, Twitter tells you that your username is taken or available in real time so you don’t have to submit and wait. However, Paul had a very hard time finding anything close to his real name, and eventually had to settle on @Paul_A_Green. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this username at all, but it got me thinking.

Since Twitter is generally all about being genuine, is there a chance that having a random-looking username will hurt people’s chances of adopting the service? I know that when someone follows me with a machine-generated name like Jeff1973, my first thought is “bot”. Whereas names that look like they’re real people, often make me more likely to check out their profile and follow them back.

This really is similar to the domain name goldrush of the late 90s. Now that virtually all of the most basic .com domains are taken, we’re forced to either dream up cool-sounding names like Brightwhite, or create domains that may not contain our brand name at all. It’s very difficult now to come up with a company name for which you can get the domain name and the Twitter handle. I also think we’ll start to see lawsuits around this as a branding issue.

As more and more people start coming to Twitter and it becomes increasingly mainstream, it’s going to get more difficult for folks to stake out their land claim and they’ll need to get more creative with their username.

For a long time, I considered switching to @jeffwhite from @brightwhite but now, I have a lot of equity in that Twitter handle, so I don’t want to give it up and @jeffwhite is long since taken.

What do you think–will the fact that we’re going to see more and more @Jeff1973’s on Twitter mean that the open and genuine nature of the service will begin to erode as the general public gets on board? Should we be looking for ways to create unique identities that stick and don’t look like robots?

Previously posted on

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