Twitter considers auctioning unused usernames to increase revenue

The company looks desperate to raise its revenues very quickly.
Ameya Paleja
Elon Musk
Elon Musk

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Twitter, under its new CEO Elon Musk, is considering auctioning popular usernames on its platform, a report by The New York Times said. The idea has been up for debate since last month but hasn't yet been put up for execution yet, sources close to the discussions told the NYT.

If true, Musk-led Twitter could be raking up another avenue to make money for the platform, where revenues have dipped since the takeover. Unsure of Musk's policies surrounding acceptable speech on the social media website, advertisers have paused placing ads on the platform, which previously generated a sizeable revenue.

Musk, on the other hand, is looking at Twitter's users to make the platform financially independent as it rolls out new features and expects users to pay a fee of $8 a month to get special perks such as a verification tick on the website. The idea launched earlier, had to be rolled back due to concerns of impersonation and was relaunched last month.

Twitter needs a lot of money

Interesting Engineering has previously reported that Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter came through a bank funding loan. The social media company's interest payments exceed a billion dollars a year. Unless Musk figures out a way to make money real fast, he could end up financing the interest payments, or the company could be staring at bankruptcy, something Musk himself hasn't ruled out.

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Either way, Twitter needs a lot of money very soon, and unearthing stuck usernames could be one way to find some money for the company. Musk has tweeted in the past that the company was looking to free up some 1.5 billion usernames, although it is unlikely that all of them would be worth monetizing.

Luckily, Musk wouldn't have to devise a new usage policy to start freeing up names, as Twitter's current rules do not allow username squatting. While this might sound funny or weird to be included in a user policy, Twitter has a page dedicated to this, which also states that users looking to make money through the sale of usernames could be suspended.

Of course, when the boss says that the usernames can be auctioned, they can be auctioned. Interestingly, the idea of auctioning usernames has been used on other social media sites like Telegram, with the username @news fetching US$2.4 million. The repossession of usernames can also be tricky, as was seen with Telegram, Gizmodo reported, and given Twitter's recent history of smashing things, this move, too, could backfire.

Cost cutting at Twitter

While Elon Musk still figures out how to make money at Twitter, he continues to add more measures of cost-cutting at the company. A previous NYT report said that Twitter was closing floors in its offices and stopping vendor payments from renegotiating smaller payments.

Even after firing more than half the staff, layoffs continue at Twitter, which does not include only engineers. Musk has also fired janitors and cleaning staff. Musk has also shut down a data center and continues to hack at everything that can save money, even though he may not be completely aware of how it can affect the company in the long term.

The shutting down of the data center on Christmas Eve could have potentially cost the company the loss of internal data, tools to triage illegal and harmful content, and 30 percent of the computing power necessary during high site traffic.