One phenomenon I’ve come across on the internet are unique usernames and the logistics behind people or businesses wanting to steal them, swap them, or purchase them for themselves. Such examples are Moz, Mozilla, Fred, Cosmic Panda, etc.
I had this happen to me on a lesser known web forum for Google Maps. One day I logged in to find a screen forcing me to create a username, but I already had one called ‘Alexander’ which I thought I would cleverly grab while the forum was new. I typed it into the screen, since I assumed I had already ‘owned’ it and it cannot be given to anyone else (turns out it can).
I was greeted with this:
Therefore, I can only assume that a Google employee or moderator desired the username and took it from me to use it for his/her own account.
People will go great lengths to grab unique usernames online. There have been times when a large business or public figure will somehow quietly steal the username. For example Fred on YouTube was famously given the ‘Fred’ username, which was forcibly taken from its original owner.
However, sometimes businesses will use diplomacy to try and acquire a username. Web user foszor posted online that when Twitter was new, he took the username ‘Mozilla.’ Time passed, and he was contacted by a lawyer for the business. He had tweeted foszor asking him to send an email, then deleted the tweet afterwards. It ended up being a legitimate dialogue for exchanging the username. In return for giving up ‘Mozilla,’ foszor received “2 t-shirts, 3 buttons and some stickers.”
He also mentions that he had the ‘CBS’ username, and that it was stolen from him without any conversation.
The standard procedure businesses go through to acquire usernames is to contact the site and say that they want their trademarked name for themselves. For example, with Instagram you would have to go through a trademark infringement form.
Here is an interesting article about someone who had his rare username stolen through social engineering.