Twitter Username Conflict and Password Function Creep

December 22nd, 2008

My friend Steve Poland blogged a few days ago about the experience of losing his @celtics Twitter account.  The story got picked up on Techmeme and made the rounds on the Internet, which was a wondeful thing.  It sounds as though the Boston Celtics decided they wanted to try out Twitter, saw that @celtics was taken and successfully petitioned Twitter to yank it from Steve.

I feel bad for Steve not so much for the fact that the name was taken from him as for the way it was done.  He posted the notification email from Twitter and it was blunt, unsympathetic and offered no recourse to someone who believed he had been wronged.  There are good ways and bad ways to convey a message and if ever there was one likely to inspire a rant this was it.

The consensus from around the Internet agrees here, and says that while everyone understands intellectually that Twitter owns user names (unlike phone numbers or domain names) there should be a fair review process.  Steve has a great example in @STP, his personal Twitter account and also the name of a brand of motor oil.  Steve never Twitters about motor oil that I am aware of, so by Twitter’s own rules there is no “impersonation” happening and Twitter should not be permitted to take the name away.

But what if it does anyway?  And what if Steve also has “STP” accounts on 17 other social media sites (or every one listed at Username Check)?  As the social media business figures out how to charge people for services I wonder if someone needs to step up as a global user name mediator so that individuals and companies don’t end up fighting the same battle in multiple forums simultaneously, where they might well win some and lose some.

Twitter seems to have jumped way up in the public consciousness recently.  I imagine they are dealing with a lot of these issues right now.  I bet they wish they could hand them off to someone else as well.

And as long as I am on the subject of Twitter growing pains,  I am fervently looking forward to the day I don’t have to give my Twitter password to every site that wants to plug into my account.  Erik Heels recommends changing Twitter passwords regularly, probably for this very reason.  I am going to have to write down all the places that have my Twitter credentials so that I can start doing that.

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  • Exactly. You should not give your Twitter credentials to third-party sites. Or if you do, at least change your password when you're done trying out the new cool Twitter-related stuff.

  • I think the consensus from the comments on my blog post was that I'm a scumbag username squatter 😉 haha. But I'm not — I swear! 🙂 I'm just trying to create a business on-top of Twitter, which is what they have been encouraging since day 1. And they're ripping my business away without any notification or recourse. I wish they'd create premium accounts where I could pay $X/year to have a secure hold on my usernames. I still have yet to get any official response from Twitter.

  • Exactly. You should not give your Twitter credentials to third-party sites. Or if you do, at least change your password when you're done trying out the new cool Twitter-related stuff.

  • I think the consensus from the comments on my blog post was that I'm a scumbag username squatter 😉 haha. But I'm not — I swear! 🙂 I'm just trying to create a business on-top of Twitter, which is what they have been encouraging since day 1. And they're ripping my business away without any notification or recourse. I wish they'd create premium accounts where I could pay $X/year to have a secure hold on my usernames. I still have yet to get any official response from Twitter.