In junior high, my AIM screen name was a White Stripes reference, and that’s not even that embarrassing, but it’s embarrassing enough that I thought twice about admitting it to you right now. YouTuber Daniel Howell probably understands my reluctance, because, as Tubefilter reports, he just announced his decision to drop his own embarrassing username of eight years.
Howell started his YouTube channel in 2009 under the name danisnotonfire, and it stuck with him as he picked up more than 6 million subscribers over the years. (It was also his handle on Twitter and Instagram.) But as he’s gotten more popular, Howell has realized the error of his 2009 ways. In his name change announcement video, Howell notes that his username’s lack of spaces and capitalization means that many fans don’t know what to call him. Some commenters have apparently read the name as “Dani Snot on Fire” and “Danis Noton Fire.” (He also said he’s going to gouge his eyes out if one more person refers to him in writing as Dan Is Not On Fire — sorry Dan!)
Howell acknowledges that the name change probably won’t stick with his hardcore fans. “On the internet, on YouTube, to you, my people, I will always be danisnotonfire, whether I like it or not,” he says. His channel name will also remain danisnotonfire — it’s only his display name that’s changing.
He says the moral of the story might be that nothing can be erased from the internet, but it also reveals a unique side of internet celebrity. Howell was a teenager when he started his YouTube channel — an age that tends to inspire pretty dumb usernames, as anyone who grew up online can confirm.
The only difference between Howell and any other formerly dumb teenager is that the rest of us weren’t forced to live our lives as TaurusStarGazer95. What if we were? Eventually we’d all have to make 10-minute videos just to announce that we’d like to formally be referred to by the name on our birth certificate from here on out.
But Howell’s fame isn’t attached to his birth name; it’s attached to his YouTube username. And that’s not going to disappear easily. Even under Howell’s announcement video, a few commenters are already placing bets as to when he’s going to give up and return to his old not-on-fire self.