Twitter is about to go nuclear on username squatting and inactive accounts

Twitter is about to purge inactive accounts, potentially freeing up usernames that early-adopters of the social network grabbed but haven't actually been using. The company already had an inactive account policy, which allowed it to deactivate and reclaim usernames that weren't actively used, but it's only now that it seems eager to actually use it.

For a while, it seemed like rising account activations was Twitter's headline growth each quarter. However a much more useful metric is how engaged users actually are: how often they log in, tweet, retweet, favorite, or reply to messages.

From that perspective, having some of the better usernames effectively squatted on by people with no apparent intention to ever use them was increasingly becoming a bottleneck. Twitter has in some cases deactivated a handle not in active use and given it to a trademark holder, but it's only been done on a case-by-case basis. Twitter's policy does say that it usually will not free up a registered but unused name, simply because someone else wants to use it.

This sweep of inactive accounts is shaping up to be far more comprehensive. According to Twitter, it's also an opportunity to clean house as the focus on how reliable the social network is as a news source continues to sharpen.

"As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we're working to clean up inactive accounts to present more accurate, credible information people can trust across Twitter," the company confirmed to TechCrunch. "Part of this effort is encouraging people to actively log-in and use Twitter when they register an account, as stated in our Inactive Accounts Policy. We have begun proactive outreach to many accounts who have not logged into Twitter in over six months to inform them that their accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity."

While Twitter has pegged "activity" as being some form of account action within six months, it's unclear how long those users have to respond to its nudge emails. That's not something the company is confirming at this stage. Nor is it saying how – or if – it'll be opening those released accounts up to other users.