How I got my username on (nearly) every site

by @edent | # # | 4 comments | Read ~8,637 times.

I go by "edent" on most websites. It's short, relates to my real name, and is usually unique. I quite often sign up to things just to snag the name. But there have been a couple of sites where someone else has got there first and started using "my" name.

I don't own the trademark, nor have any special rights to that name. So I wanted to document how I recovered it on a few prominent sites.

NPM

The ~edent account had no activity on it. I emailed support to see if I could claim it as an inactive account. They said:

We'd suggest that you follow through our name dispute process. In short, email the current scope owner of the package and cc support@npmjs.com to request the name.

I emailed the owner. NPM also sent some follow-up emails to them. After a month, they transferred the name to me.

While it was easy for me, I do feel slightly guilty. Yes, the account seemed abandoned - but one month isn't a long time if you're on holiday, in hospital, or otherwise incommunicado.

Telegram

I was quite late to popular chat app Telegram. By the time I got there, edent was already taken. I sent the owner a few messages to see if they'd relinquish it - but they didn't reply.

Telegram's dispute resolution programme is a bit simple:

If your desired username is already taken, we will be happy to help you acquire it for your account or channel, provided that you have that same username on at least two of these services: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

I already had Facebook and Twitter - and I proved that to Telegram - so they released the name. Again, I feel slightly bad about taking a username from someone. It's a policy that many people have complained about

SoundCloud

Another completely dormant account. They'd posted no content. I dropped an email to support, and showed that I was edent on other services. Their reply was pretty brutal:

In line with our Inactive URL policy I have reached out to the current owner of and given them 48 hours notice to become active on the account. If no activity takes place within this period then we will be happy to transfer the URL.

48 hours seems like a really short window. I suspect they could see that no one had logged into the account for many years. To assuage my guilt, I waited for a week before prompting SoundCloud to transfer the account.

YouTube

When I first became aware of YouTube usernames, they used Google+. For some reason, Google didn't like the name edent.
Google saying the name isn't available.
Google's name policies are deeply weird.
I'd amassed a thousand or so YouTube subscribers, which unlocked the "creator" channel. So after a few frustrating emails, I was able to get youtube.com/edent

Ko-Fi

Ko-Fi is sort of like Patreon - people can send you money for the work you create. In order to get a short name, you have to be a premium user.
Ko-Fi username policy.
I had a chat with the people who run the site and - because I'm such a social-media-superstar(!) they gave me a gold account for free.

If you'd like a discounted gold account, you can use my referral link https://ko-fi.com/gold?a=Q5Q4JHML

Where it didn't work

There are a few sites and services where I've not grabbed the name I wanted.

LinkedIn

I connected to the chap who currently uses /in/edent and asked politely if I could use the name. I told him that I had no rights to force him to give it up, and it was just a friendly request.

He uses it quite actively, and quite reasonably didn't want to change it. I can't complain about that!

LinkedIn don't have a username dispute process that I could find. If a user releases their username, you can't claim it straight away

If a member uses a URL and then changes it, that URL will be unavailable for use by yourself and other members for six months.

I'm sure if you're a big brand or celebrity, you can contact LinkedIn and grab the name you want. But I can live with being /in/TerenceEden

Instagram

Insta doesn't let you swap names, as far as I can find. But it will let you claim a name if someone is impersonating you.

Please attach a clear photo of yourself holding an accepted form of ID. Make sure that both your face and the photo in the ID are clearly visible.

The person using edent has 0 posts, but still received ~900 followers. They weren't following anyone. I am only slightly more active than them, so I tried my luck with the dispute process.

I tried sending off my passport photo - but the page kept giving an HTTP400 error.An error page on Instagram.

I used a smaller photo, fewer words in the complaint box, being logged in and out, different browsers. Nothing.

And then, out of the blue, I got this response:

We can’t give you access to this account or continue with your request because we haven’t received an acceptable ID that matches the information listed on the account.

As the user isn't pretending to be me or using my real name, I'm stuck being _edent_. Ah well.

Flickr

I don't understand Flickr, and suspect I never will. I am flickr.com/edent - but my "screen name" is terenceeden. When I try to change that to "edent" I get told I can't.
An error message on Flickr's edit name screen.
I've looked around in Flickr's support forums, and no one seems to know what this vestigial "screen name" is for, so I'm going to ignore it. I have the vanity URl and that's all I care about.

Vivino

On the wine rating app, I am _edent_. The guy using edent has more followers than me and is much more active than me. His real name also shortens nicely to "edent".

Oh well, I should have been quicker off the mark!

Tumblr

I recently received an email from tumblr asking if I was still using one of my old names. They said if they didn't receive a reply, they'd release the name for general use.

That's their stated policy - so I all I can do is watch and wait.

edent.com

In a fit of unbridled optimism, I thought I'd try and buy the domain edent.com

 Thanks for the email.  Pricing on edent.com is 19,000.00 USD.  What type of budget do you have for the acquisition?

HAHAHAHAHA! Nope! No. I cannot afford $19,000. I tried bargaining them down. The domain has remained unsold for years - there are no "e-dentists" who want it at that price.

Every few months, the registry gets in contact with me again.

The seller is asking 19k USD for this domain these days. They raise the price as inquiries come in and this domain gets a bit of interest.  Can you make an offer of even 50% of the asking price?

Even at $10k I'd struggle to justify this. I'm not an international brand, I'm just this guy you know...

I'm quite content with edent.tel.

Some final thoughts

Usernames are hard. Perhaps, in an ideal world, we'd all use Indie Auth and use our domain names as our usernames. I'd be twitter.com/shkspr.mobi, for example.

But it is useful to have separate identities on different systems, and the cost of a domain name is still too high for most people in the world.

Naming disputes are a tricky customer service problem. Giving a few months for an owner of an abandoned account to respond seems reasonable to me.

Or, perhaps I should stop being so precious about building a "personal brand"?

Nah!


4 thoughts on “How I got my username on (nearly) every site

  1. You'll away be 0000-0002-9265-9069 to me. Or Q15733094.

  2. rlyshw says:

    My username everywhere is just... my name, albeit with the vowels removed. The only drawback is that it has no direct phonetic representation in meat space, which I find kinda interesting.

    I use a Shakespearean pseudonym for services which might require me to be addressed by spoken word (ie audio comms in video games)

  3. Hi fellow username occupier. I share your history, only place where montogeek is not my username is also Flickr but that is because I registered before with an account that I lost access.

    Best,
    montogeek

  4. fab says:

    GitHub does the same as NPM with their name squatting policy. I’ve wrote a mail and several hours later the previous account with no activity was deleted.

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