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Yahoo! starts $1.99 'watch list' to recycle old usernames

Early adopters getting their new identities from Monday

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Yahoo! has begun to recycle old usernames from inactive accounts and is starting a three-year paid service so that users can put dibs on the ones that they want.

In July, Yahoo! said it planned to allow people to change their usernames for something a little more personal and asked for volunteers to sign up for the program. It has now begun replying to those who signed up before August 7 to let them know their new online identities.

Those that missed the free offer can pay a one-off fee of $1.99 to register the top five usernames they would like to have on a new watch list. If one of the names is freed up, it will be reassigned and the lucky recipient will have 14 days to either change persona or run multiple Yahoo! accounts, but there's no guarantee that anyone's top five will become available.

In the beta program, Yahoo! reported that David, Michael, and Alex were the most requested male names, with Maria, Jennifer, and, Jessica the top picks for women. Dylan Casey, senior director of platforms at Yahoo!, also reported Superman and Batman scored very highly in people's wishlists.

When Yahoo! announced the service, some in the industry worried that it might be a boon to identity thieves, or that mail intended for the original username-creator would start appearing in the inbox of its new owner. To beat that, Yahoo! has created a "Require-Recipient-Valid-Since" system and submitted it to the Internet Engineering Task Force.

In an explanatory blog post, Yahoo! said that if, for example, a new username recipient tries to check into their Facebook account, the social networking would ping back an email to Yahoo! containing the Require-Recipient-Valid-Since header, which checks Yahoo!'s servers to see when the last activity on that account was, and rejects the request if necessary.

Yahoo! is hoping that will be enough to see off most problems. Presumably charging $2 for a choice of five names will also discourage people trying to scam the system. ®

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