When Will Twitter Release Unused Usernames?

Dear Twitter,

I, like thousands of other users, don’t have my ideal username. Rather than tweeting from my desired “@LaurenDugan”, I have had to settle for an ugly underscore a la “@Lauren_Dugan”. Why? Because “@LaurenDugan” was taken… 3 years ago. And hasn’t been used since.

Twitter has 100 million active users, but well over 200 million accounts. And that means that there are as many as 100 million unused accounts sitting dormant, taking up valuable usernames.

Usernames that we want.

Twitter has been pretty tight-lipped about when and/or whether it would release unused usernames. It’s been years since they’ve updated their Inactive Account Policy, and it’s pretty vague as it is.

For instance, Twitter warns users that they’ve got to stay active or risk losing their username:

“To keep your account active, be sure to log in and Tweet (i.e., post an update) within 6 months of your last update. Accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity. Please use your account once you sign up!”

Encouraging, right? Doesn’t that mean that if you want a username of an account that hasn’t been used for over 6 months, you’ll be able to get it? No… no it doesn’t, because Twitter goes on to say:

“We are currently working to release all inactive usernames in bulk, but we do not have a set time frame for when this will take place. If a username you would like is being used by an account that seems inactive, you should consider selecting an available variation for your use on Twitter. In general, adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations can help you come up with a great available username.”

Again, you might get encouraged by the whole “currently working to release all inactive usernames…” thing, but if you read between the lines here, Twitter is basically telling you to forget about a username that you want if it’s in use – even if that “use” occurred 2 years ago and nothing since.

They recommend that you add “numbers, underscores or abbreviations” to your username if your ideal one is taken. Just like I had to do with “@Lauren_Dugan”.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter isn’t putting “release unused usernames” at the top of their priorities list. In fact, their policy page feels more like a placeholder than anything concrete.

With the #NewNewTwitter redesign last week and its increased focus on profile pages, I have a small, barely-there spark of hope in me that they’ll get around to releasing unused usernames sometime in the next… year? Or two? But I’m not holding my breath. And I recommend that you don’t either – work with those ugly underscores for now, and wait patiently for the day that you’ll get your shorter, prettier, more recognizable username.