Not just @x: Elon Musk also took @xAI from its original user

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Elon Musk’s Twitter is now X. The rebrand, which was made official on Monday, has made headlines all week. Along with the destruction of the globally recognized Twitter brand and its iconic blue bird logo, the rebranding has also had an extremely messy rollout. For example, large swaths of the website are still branded as Twitter. 

Then, of course, there was the switch of the official @Twitter handle to @x, a username that had already been registered by an active user. Many were shocked that Musk and company would just repossess an active user’s handle without any negotiation or form of financial compensation. 

It turns out this isn’t the first time in the past month that Elon Musk has taken another user’s handle on the platform now formerly known as Twitter.

Musk’s company also took the handle @xai from the Japanese user who originally registered the handle back in 2010. On July 12, Musk would go on to officially announce his new artificial intelligence company, xAI. That same day, xAI also launched a Twitter account using the handle @xai.

“My account was changed without permission,” reads an English-language translation of the post that the Japanese user published on X on Wednesday. “It seems that Elon Musk robbed me.”

When Mashable spoke to Gene X. Hwang, the U.S.-based founder of an event photography company who originally registered the @x handle more than 16 years ago, Hwang explained that he found out his rare one-letter username was taken after receiving an email from the company after they had already taken it. In the email, the company also offered Hwang some merchandise and a meeting with the X team.

The Japanese user who originally had the @xai username tells Mashable that he was offered no such thing. In fact, according to the user, they didn’t even receive an email. They logged in to Twitter on Wednesday and noticed that their username had suddenly been changed to @xai_ or “xai” with an underscore at the end of it.

“I received a [DM] message from a kind person on July 13th, saying, ‘Elon has taken my account,'” the user told Mashable regarding the first notice they received about their handle being taken.

The user went on to post a screenshot of a tweet from their account from when they still had the @xai handle as proof to any users who doubted their claim. 

Mashable can independently confirm the user originally had the @xai handle as well. Old replies found in their mentions show other users referring to them as @xai. Travis Brown, an independent researcher who analyzes Twitter data, also confirmed to Mashable that the user was previously posting from the @xai handle.

While xAI went live on July 12, the @xai handle could have potentially been transferred to Musk’s company in late June, according to Brown’s analysis. The @xai handle was transferred to an account newly registered in May without any prior posting history that appears to have been setup specifically for that purpose.

@xai account on July 12

A screenshot depicting how the @xai Twitter account looked on July 12 before Musk officially announced it, archived by the Wayback Machine.
Credit: Mashable Screenshot / Archive.org

Musk’s companies appear to be cherry-picking longtime Twitter handles

Unlike the case with the @x handle, the @xai username was not taken for the X platform. Musk’s AI company, xAI, is a separate entity from Musk’s social media platform. It even says so on the homepage of the company’s website, x.ai.

“We are a separate company from X Corp, but will work closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other companies to make progress towards our mission,” it reads.

Of course, X, the company formerly known as Twitter, is well within its right to take over any handle on its platform. But it remains odd that, according to the Japanese user, the company never even reached out.

A second Twitter handle was affected when @xAI changed hands

Furthermore, it appears the company made another bizarre move in changing the Japanese user’s handle from @xai to @xai_. It seems they also changed another user’s handle, the user who originally had @xai_, who is now found at the handle @xai__1. (Note the two underscores in that second user’s new handle.)

Mashable confirmed that @xai__1 was previously @xai_ through Brown’s Twitter data as well as through a link listed in @xai__1’s bio which states that the user’s Twitter account can be found at @xai_. The user appears to have not used Twitter since 2015.

So, to make things a bit more clear: It appears that Musk and company wanted @xai. So, the company changed the original @xai to @xai_. However, there was already a user with the @xai_ handle so they changed the original @xai_ to @xai__1 and then gave @xai_ to the original @xai.

Earlier this year, Platformer reported that shortly after Musk’s Twitter takeover, he requested that the company transfer the single-letter @e handle to him. Combine that story with what we now know about @x and @xai and it’s becoming clear that X users with rare, short usernames shouldn’t become too attached to their handles on the platform formerly known as Twitter.



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