Twitter is deleting inactive accounts on its platform, potentially freeing up some long-coveted usernames, according to recent tweets from owner Elon Musk. While Twitter has been promising for years to bring more usernames back into circulation, it hasn’t acted on that on a large scale, despite an inactive account policy which suggests that Twitter users should log in at least every 30 days to avoid accounts being permanently deleted.
According to Musk, the purge of Twitter is more conservative than the policy states. Instead, he says the company is purging accounts that “have not been active at all for several years,” while also warning users that the result of the purge could mean users’ follower counts drop. That’s something that might be more noticeable with old Twitter accounts whose owners amassed a large following during Twitter’s early days as a social network.
In a follow-up tweet, Musk also clarified in response to a question about username availability that “yes,” many usernames were about to become available as a result of this move. However, he did not clarify how users might obtain these usernames beyond the usual method of creating a new account with a given name.
In recent months, Twitter has considered selling desirable usernames through online auctions to generate additional revenue. It’s not clear if that plan is still in play or how it will work, if so. In December 2022, Musk had also tweeted that Twitter would “soon” begin clearing the namespace of 1.5 billion accounts, noting that inactive accounts would be removed as part of that process.
Musk has been interested in releasing usernames for a while now, and has tweeted in October, it was something he was eager to do as Twitter’s new owner.
Since Musk’s acquisition of the social network, Twitter has faced increasing competition from Twitter alternatives, including the open-source platform Mastodon, decentralized rival Bluesky, and other Twitter clones such as T2, nostr, and Post, among others. While none have become the “new Twitter” on their own, each network has managed to siphon off thousands of Twitter users, with Mastodon now touting 1.2 million monthly active users on its servers, for example. Other companies, such as Substack, Flipboard, and Artifact, have also launched their own discussion features that can indirectly compete with Twitter as well.
By opening up coveted usernames, Musk could potentially lure lapsed users back to Twitter, which would in turn benefit network effects and ultimately Twitter’s ability to generate revenue.
Still, Musk tweets a lot of things, and not everything happens in the time frame he suggests. So far, neither the official Twitter account nor the Twitter support account have shared any updates regarding the possible username land grab or other details about this process. In Musk’s answers, many people ask if there will be a way to memorialize the accounts of the deceased instead of deleting them. This has also not been discussed yet.