If you have been immersed in real life lately you may not have twigged to Twitter, the micro-blogging site that has recently hit critical mass. By my measure whenever a new internet phenomenon is noticed by the Wall Street Journal it is about six months until it gets purchased for an astronomical sum. My bet would be on Google acquiring Twitter before the end of the year.
Think back for a moment to the early days of the Internet when domain name registrations were free. Imagine how rich you would be if you had thought to reserve "internet.com", "business.com", or any two or three letter domain name for that matter. Domain name investment is a mature industry now with every word in the English dictionary long since reserved by some entrepreneur/squatter. Remember my story of Renata McGriff? Back when Citibank announced their mega-merger with Travelers she noticed that they neglected to grab their new domain name: citigroup.com. Within three days Renata was richer by $270,000.
Now Twitter has created a new supply of valuable "names": Twitter IDs. They take the form of twitter.com/stiennon for instance. Have you signed up for your free Twitter ID? Do you own your surname? Company name? Brand identity?
Is there evidence of Twitter squatting (squitting?) Let's check. Yup, every single-letter TwitID is taken. Some are legitimate (Check out "S" for instance, that is a cool personal email assistant service) but X, Y, and Z are place holders. How about common words? Garage, wow, war, warcraft, Crisco, Coke, Pepsi, Nike, and Chevrolet are all taken. My guess is that Twitter squatters have grabbed all of these in the hopes that they will be worth selling in the not too distant future. Of course the legitimate holders of brands can sue for them and Twitter can just turn them over if asked. But, because the investment and risk for the squatter is zero, you are going to see the rapid evaporation of available Twitter IDs.
How to protect your own brand? Immediately go to Twitter.com and determine if your name is available. Get it while you can. While you are at it, reserve all of the names associated with your brand. You may decide that any domain you have invested in should have its Twitter ID. It is the domain name squatters who will jump on this new land grab first after all. Reserving multiple Twitter IDs is easy. Twitter attempts to limit reservations by requiring a unique email address for each sign-up. That is circumvented by using the Google "plus sign" email trick. Simply append something (your new Twitter ID for instance) to your Google email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail treats that as email@example.com but Twitter thinks it is unique. I expect Twitter to fix this flaw shortly. They may even require email confirmation.
Updates 7:50 PM Eastern. Thanks to alert commenters Stormy and Xander for pointing out the correct way to extend gmail addresses. It turns out you can just make up any old email address and Twitter will allow you to create a new ID.
Hiya. Please contact me if you'd like this Twitter account. firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Stiennon is a security industry analyst. He is currently consulting, speaking and writing on all manner of security topics for IT-Harvest, the IT research firm he founded to cover the security space. He was most recently chief marketing officer for Fortinet. He has served stints at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gartner, and Webroot Software.