UPDATE: 3/20/2009 This from AdAge shows that there is GREAT value in my similar idea, whether or not people like it: “A proposed expansion of top-level domains means that by the end of the year there could be hundreds. Coca-Cola and Pepsi could request .soda or .softdrinks; Coca-Cola wanted .soda, there would be an auction, and the domain rights would go to the highest bidder. And that could get pricey quickly for brand owners. One outside consultant estimated that the total cost to business could reach $1.5 billion. And that’s to say nothing of domain squatters.” and could sign up for .laundry or .soap. The initial cost estimated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is $185,000 for registration plus anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000 in annual fees. But if both Pepsi and
Today, “How will Twitter make money?” is to the Internet what “Who shot JR?” was to television in 1980.
I never watched Dallas, so I can’t answer the latter question, but I’ll take a stab at the first one.
All Twitter needs to do is charge a yearly fee to register usernames, like domains — only make it so users have a shot at making money from it, so that everybody doesn’t rebel.
Every name should start out cheap, like $5 a year. If somebody wants a name you have, then they can offer more than that. If you sell, you get half the proceeds and Twitter collects the other half. If you don’t want to sell it, then you get to keep it just until the year’s registration runs out. At that point, you either have to sell it or you must pay Twitter 50% of the highest offer in order to register it again and keep it for the next year.
Of course, Twitter could make bidders escrow funds for large bids, to make sure the bidders are sincere and not just trying to run up prices against somebody.
The fair market price would always prevail. Of course, some names would be much more valuable than others. So say you have the name iPhone. If Apple wants it, then they pay you a few thousand dollars, and you get half and Twitter gets half. It would be good PR for companies to pay a decent price. What a name sells for could be posted, so everybody knows what “going rates” are.
If your username is your registered Trademark, then Twitter can arrange to make the name permanent to you for a fee. If the name is a generic name, like “hotdog,” then the registered user could change over time from Oscar Meyer to Yankees Stadium to Nathan’s Hotdogs.
This would make Twitter a ton of money and be fair to all users. The early adopters get compensated, but they don’t get to squat on names that could be of more value to somebody else.
Twitter and all social marketing networks have become marketing platforms just like Web pages became a marketing platform. Why shouldn’t we pay for usernames just like domain names? Makes sense to me. Just think of how fast Twitter would grow from all the speculators rushing to grab brand names.