One way of quickly checking out the reach of a personal brand name is by scanning the Web to find where it’s used as a username. Here are 3 tools that do just that.
A little history
All of these tools are based on a free tool called Usernamecheck that became so popular it had to shut down due to rising hosting costs and nothing to offset them. Luckily, all the buzz in such a short period of time was enough to inspire other developers to pick up from where Usernamecheck left off. Thanks for blazing a trail with a simple yet useful idea, Usernamecheck.
With a nice interface that makes simple but effective use of website logos to show which site is being checked, Checkusernames will take your query and quickly test over 100 different websites for its existence. If a tested username is available, the site displays a direct link to the signup page for easy access.
With a leaner, cleaner user interface than Checkusernames, usernamez only checks 60+ websites but like Checkusernames, it’s fast in checking them all at once, in parallel, and also displays direct signup links where sensible although you wouldn’t know it without mousing over the ‘Free‘ links.
myusername has a no-nonsense user interface, giving you just the bare minimum to get the username-checking job done. myusername takes a few seconds to get started and then checks each of its supported websites one by one, giving the impression that this tool is slower than the others. Plus, myusername only checks 40+ sites. Its unique feature is to tell you which url was verified, which can help understand the cause of an error.
Now- do they work?
I manage all my usernames and passwords with a software package on my Palm Treo called Splash ID that also has a Windows desktop version which I use even more. A Splash ID search for any of my usernames generates a list of results for easy reference when testing the above tools. Incidentally, if you need a good, free password manager, try the online-only Clipperz or Passpack, or the desktop-based KeePass Password Safe.
Strangely enough, the tools seem to generate different outcomes when tested simultaneously. However, since the differences don’t repeat themselves with successive attempts, it appears that the differences are more due to the checked websites than the checking tools themselves. In other words, if a specific website was a little too busy when it was checked, the lack of a reply leads the checking tool to report the wrong result. That said, the vast majority of the results did match the expectations from my Splash ID-generated lists.
The 3 tools cover different sites, with new ones being added all the time, so it’s a good idea not to rely on just one. And while the complete test results may not always be 100% accurate, using these tools can save you a lot of time in mapping the reach of your personal brand and give you a direction for where to move next.