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Twitter could sell usernames via online auctions

Since taking over Twitter in late October in a deal worth $44 billion, Elon Musk has been looking for ways for the company to generate much-needed revenue.

After slashing staff numbers and upping the subscription price of the premium Twitter Blue tier, the social media firm could be about to auction off usernames of dormant accounts, according to a New York Times report on Wednesday, January 11.

Two people with knowledge o the matter told the Times said the idea for the online auctions was first discussed among employees last month, but it’s still not clear if Twitter has decided to act on it.

A Twitter username appears after the “@“ mark and, unlike the profile name, cannot be changed. Twitter contains a huge number of accounts that have been inactive for years, with the usernames unable to be taken by anyone else.

Last month, Musk said the platform would “soon start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts,” though he made no mention of any plan to sell them to the highest bidder. Nor did he reveal on what basis Twitter deems an account to be inactive.

It would also have to decide whether to put all dormant accounts up for auction, or only those that the company believes have significant monetary value.

While Twitter’s current terms of service prohibit the trading of accounts and their usernames, such transactions have been taking place on the black market pretty much since the service launched in 2006, with financial offers being made to those with sought-after handles.

With Musk’s tweet last month suggesting the platform will soon get to work on making available the usernames of inactive accounts, we should learn soon whether it’ll proceed with its idea to allow people to bid for the popular ones.

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Trevor Mogg
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