Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm a Simple Collection of Letters

danah boyd (also known as zephoria online) has a very interesting post on apophenia about identity, and ownership/protection thereof, on the internet.

She has gone by zephoria for years, but apparently recently had her Tumblr account with that name closed so that the name could be given to a company also called Zephoria.

She makes good points about domain name 'squatting,' or people who buy up names they don't have any particular connection to but think will be in demand, and then try to sell them to other people who have a real interest in them.

There's also the phenomenon of people buying site names related to people or things that they don't like (say, a political opponent, or a cause one despises, or an archnemesis) and then making a whole site trashing that person or idea.

Ha! When someone goes to, they're going to get information on what I want to say about that person, not what that person wants to say about him- or herself!

The post talks about how social media sites have made online names even more important, since your blog-commenting ID or Twitter name really can be who you are online. It might obviously be of some concern if someone else uses the same name, even if there's no malicious intent. It dilutes the brand, after all.

And eroding your identity in spaces where no one may know your offline name, your face, or anything about you other than what you post, may be more of a problem than if there's another guy in the office named Bill. There are probably plenty of things in the physical world that distinguish you from the other Bill, but distinguishing between two people who use the same internet name could be a lot harder.

Still, what does that mean in terms of who 'should' get to use names? Is first-come-first-served the best way to handle it? Should companies get to take names away from individuals? (Tumblr gave the name back in this case.) Is it fair to set aside certain names for the use of the well-known corporations or people most likely to be associated with them?

I have no answers, but the questions are interesting.


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