That Username Is Taken

The longer a website exists the less usernames are still available on it. Also, the internet population is growing and everyone's taking up some usernames here and there. Of course, having no usernames left is not a real threat, but not having the one you had on that other site available is quite possible.

Getting matching Twitter/Instagram/TikTok handles and a Gmail address is pretty tough these days if you don't want to be called Cp5Ndkgu on all of them. And if you start out with some cool username on one platform and later find out it's taken on another you have to start adding x's, 69's and _'s at the start, middle and end1. And then you end up needing a to direct people between all your accounts.

So here's what we want from our username:

What To Do?

Quick detour: On the platform side I think it's pretty cool what Discord3 is doing: Everybody gets the name they want, but a random four digit number is added at the end (John#1234). That number is only rarely displayed and when it is displayed, it's greyed out. Everyone gets their username of choice while still being uniquely identifiable.

Okay, but what can you as a user do? Well, the attentive reader might have already spotted that the requirements are pretty similar to those of a password. And I would thus propose to come up with a username the same way you generate the password to your password manager.

Use a random word generator to come up with a random 2 to 3 word phrase: SeasonalDivision, DramaticCrosswalk, SmallDayEcho, SummitFuneral... These examples are so cool already, I'm tempted to make accounts for them just to squat on the names!

For any service requiring a username that's not visible to other users, like some e-shops, or on services where you don't care about people's ability to discover your account consider using a random string like what your password generator spits out. When I still used Spotify my account was something like 73T7VgmV8pyektJGxMj9. Your password manager has got the username and password saved anyway, so why even look for something readable?

The Real Solution

You actually don't need any social media. Get a cool domain and get your own email address on that domain. And if you do want some social media, host your own instances of all the federated social media platforms (like Mastodon) and you have literally all the usernames to yourself.

[1] A trick that worked about a decade ago was to add a single 0 at the end since most other people would start counting from 1 up (john1, john2, etc.). [2] Although I have noticed that people are moving to this model. The days of “Don't post any personally identifiable information online” seem to be somewhat over. [3] and Battle.Net if I'm not mistaken?

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