Race to snatch old, unused Yahoo user names begins


Yahoo has freed up a substantial number of inactive user names and will give them to people on a first-come, first-served basis, the company announced Monday.

A month ago, Yahoo announced it would deactivate accounts that hadn’t been touched for a year. The plan is designed to entice more people to check out Yahoo and its email, news, search and sharing services.

The scheme raised concerns among online security experts who worried that previous owners of an email could have their online identity hijacked if they had listed their little-used Yahoo email as a backup email on another service and since forgotten. Some also feared that someone who claimed another person’s old email user name would be saddled with newsletter subscriptions and similar unwanted emails.


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With help from Facebook, Yahoo devised a new technique to address those issues -- but success is largely dependent on other websites tweaking their back-end code. Yahoo is calling for websites to add a new piece of metadata when they send emails to customers.

The added information would be the date that the user connected a third-party account to a Yahoo email address. When that third-party website sends an email to a Yahoo email, Yahoo would only deliver it if the date provided is after the date that the Yahoo user name was reactivated.

As Yahoo officials noted, the change could be beneficial across the Web. Adding some sort of date validation to password reset emails could be a useful security measure for other online services, too.

As of Monday afternoon, name seekers can go to and select up to five desired user names. Yahoo said it would start telling people in mid-August if they were the first to claim any of the user names. People would then have up to two days to activate the new user name.


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