Many users sign up for Twitter and never participate. Twitter statistics website Twopcharts reported that out of 921.5 million accounts registered on Twitter as of January 2014, only 430.4 million featured a profile picture and 221.7 million included a description. Twitter tallied 232 million "active monthly users" in disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission before a November 2013 IPO. If the username you want belongs to an abandoned account, you may be able to secure it for your use.
Leave a Twitter account inactive for a period of six months and you risk losing it to dormancy. Simply logging in may be enough to forestall an inactivity warning from Twitter. An inactive account's profile page remains visible, but it shows no tweets, may lack followers and fail to follow anyone. Inactive-looking accounts with followers may belie a busy pattern of private direct-message activity, however. Historically, Twitter approaches inactive accounts conservatively, but some of these usernames eventually become available.
Twitter won't give you an inactive account's username just because you send in a polite request for it -- unless it represents your registered trademark, company name or logo. If another user attempts to mislead Twitter subscribers into thinking his account officially represents your brand, you may have a valid trademark-policy violation case. Twitter may release the name to you or force the current holder to rename his account -- inactive or not -- so it doesn't violate your trademark rights. Twitter allows, even encourages, fan and parody accounts that clearly differentiate themselves from actual companies or celebrities, so if another user registers a form of your brand name, the use must demonstrate a clear intent to deceive and infringe before Twitter will take action.
If the Twitter username you really want remains unavailable, Twitter recommends that you try alternative spellings and punctuation to find a variation you can register. Transpose the order of words, insert underscores between them or substitute a digit for a letter: a "1" for an "I" or a "3" for an "E," for example. You also can begin the username with "The" or turn it into a pun or play on words. These tactics may land you a username that comes acceptably enough close to what you really want to express.
Unlike the usernames on inactive accounts, deleted usernames immediately become available for re-registration by new account holders. Closing an account removes all its resources -- tweets, direct messages and followers -- and releases its username. If you're tempted to offer the holder of an inactive account some form of inducement to delete it so you can claim the name, keep your coins in your pocket. Just as squatting on a username to keep someone else from registering it violates the Twitter rules, so does attempting to buy one. That doesn't mean you can't attempt to contact another user and negotiate a username transfer, but before you do, read and understand Twitter's rules.
- United States Securities and Exchange Commission: Amendment No. 4 to Form S-1 Registration Statement Under the Securities Act of 1933: Twitter, Inc.
- Twopcharts: Twitter Activity Monitor
- Twitter Help Center: Inactive Account Policy
- Twitter Help Center: Trademark Policy
- Twitter Help Center: Username Squatting Policy
- Twitter Help Center: Why Can't I Register Certain Usernames?
- All Twitter: How to Get a Twitter Username You Love (And How to Change It If You Hate It)
- TwiTip: How to Secure an Unused Twitter Account
- Yes Missy: How to Claim an Inactive Twitter Name
- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images