When I first started using the Internet anonymity was a practised norm. With the popularity of Social Media, being anonymous is no longer an option.
Just like CB handles from the 80’s, in the 90’s the web was full of wonderful names, phillysteve, smithy65 and buckshot76 are examples of a common alpha numeric combination used by many.
My own favourite choice, when available, was a cross between my name and what I did, seanEbusiness.
Stupidly we were using these anonymous usernames and avatars, as graphical representations of ourselves, when there weren’t that many people to see them. Yet now, with 82% of the UK population and 78% of North America now online, more people are starting to use real names.
I’m A Name Not A Number
Just as there was a land rush for domain names, early adopters have taken advantage of coveted real names for use as usernames on many social platforms.
For those that foresee the importance of a new network when it launched, they have been left to compile something semi-recognisable to use.
YouTube and Google+ have a legacy issue, whereby you may have created a Google account, then linked it with your YouTube account inheriting your Google username. This would have been part of your Gmail address and many usernames would have been of the anonymous type.
Facebook has some leagcy issues but they are less important as the URL’s aren’t used by people much. Where there is more of an implication is for businesses whose names are the same as those of real people. Both have a claim on the name, trademark or not.
The Twitter Effect
Twitter is where a lot of the current angst exists. The username is part of the conversation, it’s what is used to advertise you are on the platform. It is also a platform that has many non-participating users. There are estimated to be in the region of 100 million inactive Twitter accounts.
Many of these are users that got onboard early but never got to grips with the platform. By registering real names and abandoning the accounts, they have many active users that have had to use alternate names frustrated.
Free The Names
To compound the issue Twitter have not been forthcoming on when, or even if, they will release the dormant usernames. Objection has grown to the point that an online petition has now been raised to try and get Twitter to take action. If this succeeds, I am sure however they try to re-release the names, it will be just as controversial.
There are likely to be other popular platforms, just as MySpace and FriendFeed have slipped from grace, the same is likely to happen to existing ones over time. The best advise? If names are important to your objectives, secure usernames on new platforms as they are launched. If they are critical then a paid for service such as Knowem can be used to ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
In the meantime I will sit and wait for the impending release of my real Twitter name…