Feelings about unique usernames on the internet, a somewhat practical recovery guide.

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on July 17, 2019

My internet friend edent wrote a lovely missive about how he was able to get his username on (nearly) every site. I had feelings, so here they are.

I go by “glasnt” on most websites. It’s short, I started using it in 2004, 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.

The Recoverable

Reddit

This one was really quite fortunate. It’s the only instance where someone has squatted my alias.

Seven years ago, now, according the saved message I still have, I reached out to the person who had my alias. They had used it only a handful of times years before, so I asked nicely, saying I could prove that I owned the dot com.

And they agreed, pending I put a silly unique message on my homepage to prove I owned it.

I honestly have no idea who this person was, but I am thankful for the peaceful transfer of ownership. <3

Instagram

My own fault, really.

Turns out that a mechanism to prevent hostile takeovers of aliases is to not allow re-registration of an alias after an account has been deleted.

So after I tried instagram for a few months years ago and didn’t really take to it, I deleted my account. Then I reconsidered, and trie d to claim it again.

Nope.

You could not register an account that had been deleted.

From what I recall, I immediately re-registered with glasnt_. The underscore irked me. It irked me so much. Even with this account registered, I couldn’t rename my account to remove that code-smelly underscore.

About a year later, I idly tried again to remove the underscore. And it worked.

It makes sense that there would be a long timeout period for reclaiming a name, and I’m just lucky I got in there first.

The Unrecoverable

Keybase

Sadly not all systems timeout like Instagram does (or did.)

I registered for Keybase back in the day, didn’t think much of it, and deleted my account.

But then, for a reason lost to time, I tried to register again. And couldn’t.

There is zero way to reclaim a deleted keybase alias.

So this is the one and only place on the internet that I cannot be glasnt.

Thankfully it’s a platform which is literally about cross-account verification, so I can at least prove it’s me.

Deleted keybase accounts can't be recovered, so I'm 'glasnt_' now.

The Lesson

If you want to have a consistent branding around the internet and you are lucky enough to get your unique alias on a service, never delete the account. Idle it, delete content if you feel it’s appropriate, but do not delete the account. You are not guaranteed that you can get it back again.

Unfortunately the issue of not-completely-unique internet aliases and unintentional account squatting is extremely familiar to me, and outside of scope for this post.

I also hope that by sharing my experiences here that I do not get people trying to be funny and register as me on different platforms, because that would be annoying, rude, and really not a kind thing to do.