Instagram Username, gone for the ages?
June 7, 2013 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Why would Instagram make a deleted username forever unusable?

A friend of mine recently deleted her Instagram account when she discovered it was tethered to the wrong Facebook account (a dummy one) and pulling her images from that account automatically.

Upon trying to restart the account, properly tied to her personal account, she discovered that the username was unavailable. Further research says it's Instagram's policy to prevent anyone from ever using a deleted username again, including the original user.

I'm not too concerned about getting the username back for her (though that would be nice.) I'm more curious, for what reason would anyone have this policy?
posted by Vhanudux to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's a strategy used by forums and online discussion boards for a long time. It prevents a bot that is programmed to use one name only to re-register. Today's bots are much more complicated but the strategy sometimes still works.
posted by JJ86 at 11:12 AM on June 7, 2013

A user name or account name can also be a "primary key", a unique identifier that's referenced a lot of places in a system. For a whole lot of reasons you don't always want to delete all of that data, and you may not even know where all of that data is stored (modern web services can be hugely complex systems, distributed over computers that may be distributed across continents). Heck, with things like Google cache and and who knows what else, you don't have control over all of the data which may reference that account name.

And what happens when a user is, say, busted for something extremely embarassing, the account is deleted, someone else creates an account using that user name without realizing the connection, and then later discovers that Google cache or something similar now thinks they're a pedophile?

So rather than trying to track all that data down and say "hey, this used to be associated with account X and is now associated with deleted placeholder account Y", it's far easier to say "this account is deleted".
posted by straw at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Both the technical reasons straw lists above, and the social reasons -- if you were, say, HotGinger on a given site for a number of years, and then you left the site for whatever reason, having someone else become HotGinger after you is potentially confusing to other members of the site. Usernames are meant to represent a person, and having the person they represent change over time ends up creating weirdnesses. Not even necessarily on-site weirdnesses -- it could be, as straw notes, that there are associations out there in google with that username and your site that still represent the old user.

Some places will re-use usernames that were never fully activated or never used on their site, but it's rare to allow a name that has been actively used to be re-used.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

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