It happens all the time to many of us. We try to sign up for a site, and choose a username. We’re late to the party so our preferred one is taken. We may add an underscore, or append the last two digits of the year of our birth at the end.
On Twitter having a short username is a plus: @replies from other people leave more space for what they want to say. Here is some data from my Twitter sample that seems to show the “taken username” effect over time.
Average username length for accounts created in a given year:
Average number of non-letter characters in a username:
Also, the average number of underscores in names created within a year doubled during that period (0.086 to 0.174). Same for usernames that end in a digit (0.17 to 0.35).
Moral of the story: maybe arbitrary usernames will become a thing of the past if universal logins like Facebook Connect become the norm. In the meantime, shorter names will continue to look “cooler.” There will still be land rushes like what happened this week at Outlook.com: I secured my preferred username just in case, did you? Do you care?
Relevant SNL skit: