Twitter is purging inactive accounts on its platform, which may free up a number of long-coveted usernames, according to recent tweets by owner Elon Musk. Though Twitter for years has promised to put more usernames back into rotation, it hadn't yet made any large-scale effort to do so, despite having an inactive account policy in place that suggests Twitter's users should log in at least every 30 days to keep accounts from being permanently removed.
According to Musk, Twitter's purge is more conservative than that policy states. Instead, he says the company is purging accounts that have had "no activity at all for several years," while also warning users that the result of the purge may mean users' follower counts drop. That's something that may be more noticeable on longtime Twitter accounts whose owners accumulated a large following during Twitter's early days as a social network.
We’re purging accounts that have had no activity at all for several years, so you will probably see follower count drop
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 8, 2023
In a follow-up tweet, Musk also clarified in response to a question about username availability that "yes," a lot of usernames were about to become available as a result of this move. He didn't, however, clarify how users would be able to acquire these usernames beyond the usual method of trying to create a new account with a particular name.
In recent months, Twitter had considered selling desired usernames through online auctions to generate additional revenue. It's not clear if that plan still remains in play or how it will work, if so. In December 2022, Musk had also tweeted that Twitter would "soon" start freeing the namespace of 1.5 billion accounts, noting that inactive accounts would be deleted as part of that process.
Musk has been interested in freeing up usernames for some time, having also tweeted in October it was something he was keen to do as Twitter's new owner.
Since Musk's takeover of the social network, Twitter has faced increased competition from Twitter alternatives, including open source platform Mastodon, decentralized rival Bluesky and other Twitter clones like T2, nostr and Post, among others. Though none on its own has become the "new Twitter," each network has managed to siphon off thousands of Twitter users, with Mastodon now touting 1.2 million monthly active users across its servers, for example. Other companies, like Substack, Flipboard and Artifact, have also launched their own discussion features which could indirectly compete with Twitter as well.
By opening up coveted usernames, Musk could potentially lure lapsed users back to Twitter, which in turn would benefit the network effects and ultimately, Twitter's ability to generate revenue.
Still, Musk tweets a lot of things, and not all come to pass in the time frame he suggests. So far, neither the official Twitter account nor the Twitter Support account has shared any updates related to the potential username land grab or other details about this process. In Musk's replies, many people are asking if there will be a way to memorialize the accounts of those who have passed, rather than deleting them. This hasn't been addressed yet, either.