Elon Musk-owned social media network Twitter could possibly be looking to monetize popular usernames via auction.
Advertisers have been leaving Twitter in droves ever since Musk took over last October. In an effort to staunch the loss of revenue and finally have the site start making money, it looks like the company is considering monetizing the names users use on the platform.
According to a report from the New York Times, people working at Twitter held talks about selling usernames. According to the report, which was based on unnamed sources who were close to those conversations, this isn’t a sure thing, and it’s unclear how far the talks progressed, especially with the approach of the new year.
The talks do raise questions about “username squatting.” Currently, Twitter has rules against the practice, restricting people from creating profile-less accounts for the express purpose of selling the username. The move would see Twitter effectively engaging in the practice and having a monopoly on it. Meanwhile, Musk himself previously mentioned “freeing” the usernames of 1.5 billion deleted Twitter accounts that have remained unused for years. (Read: Mastodon is not Twitter, and it has enough differences that we should pay attention)
If Twitter were to push through with the move to monetize popular usernames, it wouldn’t be the first social media network to do so. Last October, Telegram started putting popular usernames up for auction—only making an exception for usernames being sold for crypto. The move was not without some hitches, including some users claiming that their Telegram usernames were repossessed by the service’s anti-squatting system without warning.
Telegram responded to these issues stating that “no system can perfectly distinguish between a channel being used to squat a username and one of these static placeholder or redirect channels.”
Overall, the move was seen as a success for the instant messaging app and Telegram soon started selling fake phone numbers which could be used to log in to its service as well.
If the move for Twitter to start putting popular usernames up for auction pushes through, it will be just another one of the changes that Musk has pushed on the network since his takeover. The most notable—and maligned—of these is the change to Twitter Blue, which let users buy verification. This move resulted in multiple impostor accounts forcing the company to implement another tier of verification with gold checkmarks.
Other new features include the ability for users to check stock and crypto prices in-app—via a collaboration with stock-trading app Robinhood. In addition, the company has also replaced the “Latest” tab in the app with a “For You” timeline. This change now makes users have to manually set their timeline to “Latest” to display a chronological view of tweets every time they load the app.
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