As you know, multiuser Unix machines use "~" as a shortcut to the "/users" directory and in the beginning all users were the same. The tilde in front of names and nicknames manifested the power of machines and the system. You were a user, a guest, something peripheral and only the stuff that followed the tilde belonged to you. You had no influence on the things in front.

The tilde showed hierarchy and made the relation of users to the internet transparent. A quick glance at the URL and you could see the provider, university or institution that granted access.Getting rid of the tilde was important.

In 1997 I had a job in a design studio in Moscow. Besides money and a few other things, (like a free internet connection), they promised to host my files on the studio server without the tilde in front of my name.

After a year of being www.cityline.ru/~olialia I became design.ru/olialia. They dropped the tilde and I became part of the team. Drop the tilde and your relation to the words in front isn't that clear anymore.

Back then the next step, (now the first step), was to register your name as a domain. Technically you're still the same user on a server and your rights are still within the boundaries of a folder but it looks different: your "nick" is really a "name" recognized by the high level DNS.

And don't forget that a registered domain promises success in business.

Today, having a tilde in front of your name is especially problematic because Apple computers don't have it on their keyboard*. To type "~" you have to press Alt and N at the same time then release these keys and hit the spacebar. Even those who know the secret never remember it. This complication makes the old fashioned tilde mysterious and sweet like a forbidden fruit. It will soon come back as a sign of being cool and competent.

Actually, the really cool guys never renounced it.


I asked my co-author, the last on the list, "Why are you behind the tilde on a-blast.org when it's your own server?" And the answer is, "The tilde indicates that I am a user on a server computer. If I belong to a server I show where I am and I also talk about my past. Interesting relations are possible in the URL: my private page on a project server, one user in a community, the friend of another friend. This information is available to people that can "read" the URL so I make sure it contains some interesting information. And the word after the tilde is my Login Name. Through this I demonstrate that I can login as well, that I know about FTP, SSH, rsync etc."

You see, today the sign for a user can be read as a sign for being more than an ordinary user.

*Seems to be not true for all Apple models.
Simon Biggs wrote:
> One small correction, but Apple computers do have a tilde (~). There it is,
> typed on a G4 laptop! Bottom left of the keyboard, uppercase above ` on an
> English machine.