Posting without registration has a lot of disadvantages:

  • Every once in a while, an unregistered user loses his account cookie after posting a question. This prevents him from editing his question, commenting on existing answers or accepting an answer.

    The result are abandoned questions, suggested edits to one's own question, comments posted as answers and – ultimately – a diminished user experience.

    There are ways to overcome this, but new users often struggle with the site's simplest functionalities.

  • Unregistered accounts with less than 50 rep get hard-deleted after six month of inactivity. (source)

    This could make it impossible for a user to act on late answers to (good) questions.

    Since the account is hard-deleted, not even flagging for Mod attention will help here.

  • I don't know how much valuable answers come from unregistered accounts (going through the list of all unregistered users, there only seem to be a few besides John Carmack), but sampling my helpful NAA flags from the last couple of days, I'd say that more than half of the non-answers originate from unregistered users.

    Without being actually able to look at the Mods' flag queue, I'd say that non-answers are the principal source of Moderator attention flags. Requiring registration might reduce them.

The only advantage (from the user's perspective) I can find is that they don't have to go through the registration process, but posting without registering also asks for name, email address and home page.

To register instead of just posting, the user only has to provide a password, solve a CAPTCHA and click a link in the registration email; and that's only if he doesn't have Facebook/Yahoo!/Google/etc. account.

Unless there's an advantage that I've overlooked, I think that registration should be required to post questions (for the user's benefit) and maybe even answers (for the site's benefit).

  • heh, I was thinking about this chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/118?m=5484098#5484098
    – Sathyajith Bhat Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 16:15
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    The only disadvantage I can see is reduced traffic because some people might refuse to log into yet another site. However, the OpenID somehow makes that obsolete. I wonder what happened on SO after they've required logins.
    – slhck
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 17:13
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    My completely unscientific observation: question quality has improved somewhat. Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 18:06
  • +1000 for the first bullet. It just makes a mess when an unregistered user has to post an answer because they can't edit their question.
    – iglvzx
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


The ability to get help on the site without the need for an account is crucial in my eyes.

I agree that it is very likely, that a lot of bad content originates from unregistered users. However, I found myself in situations where it was impossible to log into the site due to special HTTP proxy configurations or other firewall setups that simply forbid use of OpenID providers.

Yes, I understand you can always create an account on the site itself, but my point is that there are possible situations that make it hard for people to actually get an account or log in on the site.

The bottom line is, it makes it harder for people to participate and contribute. For some, it might even make it impossible.

The benefits might outweigh the costs, but I would rather edit crappy content for the rest of my live than leave a single user without help.

  • 1
    My main point for questions is precisely that unregistered accounts make it harder to participate, not easier. Consider this question, for example. There are many others.
    – Dennis
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 20:25
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    For others' reference: The linked topic contains two deleted "answers" posted by the OP using a different unregistered account, responding to the answers. If the user were registered, he could still comment on answers, and edit his question.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 21:49
  • @Dennis: I fully appreciate the problematic situation. I just always felt like the "no registration" part was an important cornerstone of the "openness" of StackExchange. Personally, I wouldn't feel well about sacrificing it. A different solution to the issue would be interesting. Sadly, I can't offer one at this point in time :( Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 18:41
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    The ability of unregistered users to participate has been part of the feature set of Stack Overflow and then the rest of the Stack Exchange network from the beginning. However, due to the overwhelming number of questions at Stack Overflow, they have closed off the ability to ask questions without registering, but on that site only. If Super User is seeing the same scale of issues then I'm sure that management will consider it here.
    – ale
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 18:51
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    Here's the announcement of the registration change at Stack Overflow. are there 4k-5k new questions asked here every day?
    – ale
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 18:53
  • @AlEverett Ha! No, only about 150 questions per day. :)
    – iglvzx
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 21:58

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