Over a weekend, Elon Musk announced he was “bidding adieu” to the entire Twitter brand and calling the platform “X.” Within days, the company rolled out logo changes across the site and even took down the physical Twitter logo from its corporate headquarters in San Francisco.
However, as Mashable previously pointed out, the whole rebrand seems rather thrown together with large swaths of the website unchanged, referring to Twitter, and still carrying the blue bird.
Perhaps nothing shows how this was all hacked together last minute better than the main official account for the entire platform still using the @Twitter handle. Over the past few days, many users who are critical of the rebrand have pointed out: Why hasn’t Musk and company changed it to @x?
Well, one big reason may be that @x already belongs to a Twitter user, one who has actively been using the platform since they registered the handle in March 2007.
“I haven’t been contacted by Twitter / Elon,” said Gene X. Hwang, co-founder of event photo company Orange Photography and owner of the @x handle on the platform formerly known as Twitter, in an email when Mashable reached out to him.
“I am keeping an eye out on DMs and such to see if they do touch base about it,” he explained in an email exchange with Mashable about the @x handle which he has been tweeting from for more than 16 years.
Gene X. Hwang recently went private with his @x account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Credit: Mashable Screenshot
Hwang shared how he first found out about Twitter thanks to living in San Francisco and having friends who either worked at Twitter or had already been using the platform.
“X is my middle initial and often I’d use genex as a handle for online services,” explained Hwang as to why he chose the username.
Twitter had gone public on July 15, 2006. However, growth was fairly slow until Twitter debuted at the SXSW festival in March 2007. It was there that the company took off. It was that same month that Hwang and some of his friends signed up and they noticed that users could register short, one-letter handles, many of which were still unregistered.
“We found out you could have single letter handles so we got them,” Hwang said. “I was friends with @a, @j, @c, @k and @t…I might have left some others off. It wasn’t that big back then but as it grew it kept being useful and fun to use so I was pretty active right from the start.”
“With the original shorter character limits on Twitter, it made sense to get a shorter handle like @x,” he continued, sharing how besides his own middle name, he has an affinity for the letter due to his pinball initials and being Gen X’er.
Hwang recently went private on his @x account due to the recent rebranding from Musk.
“[The account] was public most of its life but I changed that more recently with the “x” stuff that Elon was tweeting since it was evident that was coming and the noise got even worse,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Hwang’s short Twitter handle has caused him problems. Users have constantly replied to him over the years by accident, making that particular Twitter feature hard to use at times.
This is how Gene X. Hwang’s @x account looked earlier this year, before he went private.
Credit: Mashable Screenshot / Archive.org
“Mentions are a mess…but @a had it worse with folks tweeting things like “I’m @a bar,” Hwang explained, adding a crying laughing emoji.
Rare usernames often attract unwanted attention
But, there are worse issues than messy mentions. Rare usernames on prominent platforms can fetch a large sum of money on online black markets. With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, single-letter handles are worth a lot and often become the targets of hackers looking to make a quick buck.
In January 2014, for example, software developer Naoki Hiroshima went public with how a bad actor hacked his Twitter account and stole his single-letter username, @N. Hiroshima shared that he had previously been offered as much as $50,000 for the handle, but had turned it down. His story quickly went viral and Twitter eventually intervened, taking control of the username and giving Hiroshima his account back.
“Some of us single letter names had an email chain going on about security,” Hwang told me. “There was a hack through AT&T text messaging online or something back then that was being used to steal 2FA codes or something IIRC. But, lately it’s been fine though I get the occasional ‘reset your password’ attempts and such.”
Will Musk buy @X or just take it?
So, what will become of Hwang’s rare and valuable @x handle on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter?
Hwang didn’t specifically mention selling his handle to the company in our email exchange. But, he did add that he’s “sure something could be worked out.”
It’s certainly possible that Elon Musk will reach out to Hwang in the near future about acquiring the handle from him. According to previous reports, the company itself has looked into auctioning off rare inactive usernames in order to generate revenue.
However, Musk and company can also very likely just choose to take control of the @x handle too. In fact, Musk has already done so with other usernames. According to a report from Zoe Schiffer of Platformer earlier this year, Elon Musk had Twitter transfer the single-letter handle @e to him “shortly after the takeover.”
The @e account was in limbo at the time after the individual who originally registered it was hacked and Twitter temporarily suspended it. And, unlike the case of @N in 2014 where Twitter got it back for the original registrant, Musk reportedly just requested @e for himself.