In the past five months I've been on dA I've met tonnes of wonderful, amazing people I'm proud to call my friends. But I grew to know them by their usernames, or a nickname derived from that username. So did many others. On dA, you grow fanbases. People admire you. They call you by an endearing nickname, people trust that name. But all of a sudden you decide, "I don't want to be *chocolatecat anymore, I'm going to become *coffeedog!" These names have nothing to do with each other, how will people know who you are? Many don't look at the notifications, or maybe they forget easily. All of a sudden you're an unknown entity. People have to relearn who you are. It's confusing, especially if you change your icon as well. In comments and notes people will see you as a stranger rather than their beloved friend leaving a personal note or a friendly critique on your art. But, say, if you leave your icon that will give a hint as to your identity - or perhaps using a name that has similarity with your old one. If someone knows you as Cat, rather than chocolatecat, what would be easier - leaving chocolate, or cat? For example: "I don't want to be *chocolatecat anymore, so I'm going to be *coffeecat!"
Then again lots of people made their accounts when they were young or to reflect a certain fanbase or meme. I think this is mostly where the dA staff were coming from when they decided to allow name changes. Someone that made their account when they were 14 might have named their account something silly or to reflect something they felt strongly about. Now, they might be 24, and looking to have a more professional name or a name that doesn't reflect an interest they no longer have. *unicorn77290cat might want to change their name to, say, their real name or their pen name - *LimeyNickets, for example. This makes their username something they can be proud to direct potential customers to without having to potentially sacrifice their fanbase with a complete account change. If you're a professional that uses dA as your online portfolio this makes sense. However, if you're an amateur that just wants to change their name for the sake of changing it, I feel it can be a waste of resources - think of all the names that would be left in the dust but unclaimable for someone it means something to? The redirection of the old name makes sense for acclimation purposes, it takes a while to get used to someone using a different name - but is terribly inconvenient. If the redirection only lasted a month, like the notification at the top of someone's profile ("formerly ___!"), that would be one thing. Or perhaps adopting the method used on many forums - you have one constant username but can change the displayed name as you wish, as seen on Proboards. I really like this feature and have used it extensively throughout my entire roleplay career, though I would always return to the display name "Ookami" because it was how I was known over hundreds of sites. People knew who I was through how I wrote and my characters and my avatar, however it's not that simple on dA. Some people don't have a style that is immediately distinctive or perhaps they have many styles of art or writing photography. Nevertheless it's still a very handy feature that I think would make more sense than someone changing their name several times, yet the original still linking to them even though they can't go back to it.
I've noticed some people are offended or feel that the fact that it's only available to subscribed members is unfair. You must remember that in order to sustain a site as massive as dA you must have the money to pay for it. Not only is name-changing very complex and therefore very expensive ("The reason there is a "fee" associated with the change is because switching usernames is a complex technical process that can create confusions for fellow deviants" - dA Staff
), so is keeping the site up by itself. $5 for a one-month subscription and being able to change your name isn't that much, especially not for investing in a name you can be happy with and helping to keep your beloved net-home up and running. Even if you don't have that $5 I'm seeing so many raffles and contests for one-month subscriptions it should be no problem. Someone that is given something important for free might not make a smart decision, but someone that must pay their own hard-earned money is going to think long and hard about how they should use it in order to make the best decision. I think this is very smart of dA.
Remember, whether we like it or not our reputation is heavily influenced by the image we create; including your name. Someone that changes their name might, a year later, still be called by their old name. This works both ways - my username is =RTHBN
but many people call me Rath, because it is how I sign my works. You might be wondering why: Echo's Imaginarium is the name of my business, and while I am the founder I am not the only one that works under that name - therefore, I am Rathbone, the individual, but we are Echo's Imaginarium, the group.
Ha, there are my ramblings. Be smart about your name change, kids. Once you go _______, you can never go back.