Twitter just discovered that some good ideas are great in theory…

Enrique Dans
Nov 28 · 2 min read

On Tuesday, Twitter announced that as of December 11, in accordance with its stated policy, it will begin closing inactive accounts that have not logged into its network for six months, and freeing up their names.

Seems fair enough: an account that has not logged on in the last six months, or sometimes for years, could be deemed inactive, so why not close it and allow its name to be reused by someone else? All the @Joan_Smithaab2671s out there will be grateful and it will clean the service up and provide a better picture of just how many people and organizations use it.

And yet… things are rarely as simple as they seem. The reasons for an inactive account are many, and one of them in is the death of the user. In some cases, this this inactive account should be closed, but in others, the content may have a certain sentimental or even historical value, depending on the profile of the deceased. As a result, and in the absence of an option (yet) on Twitter to memorialize accounts, as is the case with Facebook, some relatives have tried to hold onto the accounts of their deceased loved ones, and there have even been mass initiatives to try to prevent this from happening, in the absence of an option on Twitter to memorialize accounts..

In the cases of public figures, their accounts can be passed on to an administrator who tries to preserve their legacy. In others, these accounts simply cease being active, and if no one has the login information, they disappear. Twitter offers the possibility of preserving the information they contain by downloading it, but this can only be done if you have a valid login, and furthermore, it does not prevent this information from losing all its relevance by disappearing definitively from the web and search engines.

A further complication arises in trying to pass those inactive accounts to other people: an idea that might make a lot of sense, were it not for the fact that, in many cases, we are talking about potentially interesting accounts, which were opened when the level of competition for a good user name was significantly lower. Now, many accounts with simple names can become objects of desire for many, which will surely lead to unscrupulous individuals trying get those names through bots to then sell them to the highest bidder.

As we have come to learn from social networks what seemed like a good idea can end up creating all kinds of problems. A few hours after this decision, Twitter communicated that they will be stopping the culling of inactive accounts at least until they can start offering a memorialization scheme. Obviously, things are never as simple as they seem…

(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at since 2003)

Enrique Dans

Written by

Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at since 2003)

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