Everyone is squatting names on newly launched PayPal.me

PayPal on Tuesday made it easier to send people money by launching PayPal.Me, a peer-to-peer payment platform. 

PayPal users can create a new account or link their existing one to PayPal.Me. From there, they will be able set up a profile with a personalized URL. Anyone who visits that URL will see a landing page with the account holder’s name and picture. From there, it’s easy to send them money.

On its face, the new service makes total sense for PayPal. Square, one of its main competitors, launched the similar service Square Cash earlier this year. Like PayPal.Me, Square Cash gives users a custom URL on the service’s cash.me domain.

What is somewhat odd about the decision, though, is that PayPal already owns one of the best apps around for this exact purpose. It bought Venmo, the social payment service, in 2013, after Venmo had established itself as a leader in the peer-to-peer payment business. The service recorded more than $700 million in transfers in the third quarter of 2014 alone. Venmo and PayPal.Me offer essentially the same service in a very similar format.

One extra thing PayPal.Me does is give those later to the Venmo game a chance to land some prime URL real estate. 

PayPal.Me opened up with basically every possible URL available to any enterprising user. Of course, the rush wasn’t to lock up one’s own name but instead to grab the names of celebrities and public figures.

Interestingly, people outside of the United States quickly laid claim to the usernames of American politicians. The account paypal.me/donaldtrump belongs to someone in Toronto, Canada, while /hillaryclinton, /berniesanders, and /obama have all been claimed by users in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, /TedCruz, /JebBush, and /BenCarson are all occupied by Americans. Those accounts will assuredly be used in campaign ads at some point. 

Scott Walker is the only politician who can claim that his full-name URL actually belongs to him. But /ScottWalker isn’t the Wisconsin governor and conservative presidential candidate—it’s a Canadian politician of the same name, which is a perfect bit of irony for the politician who suggested building a wall at the U.S.–Canadian border.

While politicians’ names went fast on PayPal.Me, they weren’t the only people to fall victim to the open URL format. /Kanye and /JayZ have been scooped up, as has /TomCruise (by Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos). Someone in Turkey grabbed the URL for YouTube celebrity PewDiePie.

Even PayPal.me’s top competitors have had their URLs yanked. /Venmo has been claimed by Weird Twitter ambassador Leyawn, while /Square is owned by a user in the Great White North. (Canadians apparently love PayPal.) Even old-school paper money is on PayPal.Me: tech retailer Red Rock Technologies snatched up the /cash URL.

PayPal does seem to be protecting some celebrity names to prevent squatting. URLs for /Drake, /TaylorSwift, /SelenaGomez, /JustinBieber, and /OneDirection (because they apparently share a PayPal account) can’t be grabbed, even though no accounts with those URLs currently exist.

It makes a certain sort of sense to keep people from grabbing the names of famous people, but a URL isn’t going to fool anyone. The landing page shows the account holder’s real name and location, so it’d be next to impossible to mistakenly send money to someone while thinking you were sending it to Drake.

Don’t fret if your first-choice URL is gone. There are still plenty of top notch options available. Give some more obscure celebrities a shot. You can be /HulkHogan, for example. Maybe take /JamesWoods, though the actor might sue you for it. If you want to go political, you’ll have to dip into the archive of candidates of yore. May we suggest /BobDole?

Photo via 401(K) 2012/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

AJ Dellinger

AJ Dellinger

AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.