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Better said, how much harder is to mantain a forum/message-board/community webiste with unauthenticated users and what would be the benefits and disadvantages in comparison to an account-based one?

What about letting unauthenticated users have at least some rights like posting, flagging or voting? Is that so much harder to implement in the matter of security?

The way I see it, it would be much better -and natural- to have an authentication process as an experience enhancer only (having more options and rights, no CAPTCHAs, etc.) and not as a requirement for participation (unless users save or share private information, of course). I don't know if this makes any sense at all.

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If you leverage facebook/OpenID you can offload the maintenance to the 3rd party in some capacity. –  Aaron McIver Dec 9 '11 at 13:25
    
I particularly don't like the whole "Login with Facebook/OpenID/Twitter/Google". But it's a matter of choice. I do agree on that if one is planning on making a mandatory login, all those services should be allowed –  fedeetz Dec 9 '11 at 20:18
    
Seriously, the correct answer to this can be no less than several doctoral theses, I am sure. Trying to oversimplify or define in simpler terms may not do proper justice here. –  Kris Dec 16 '11 at 4:35
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Absolutely - I agree with your points. UX is all about making tasks as easy as possible for the end-user. If your site can function without user accounts, allow people to partake anonymously.

This system can be seen on Stack Exchange - people can anonymously ask and answer questions, and it works. I answered my first few questions anonymously before deciding to create an account to keep track of some good questions I'd found.

If your site can function desirably without user signups, you should definitely not require them. Possibly in a forum setting (you mentioned posting) you might want to tie posts to users to prevent things like impersonation - though that could be just another 'perk' to creating an account (reserving a username).

You're along the right lines in my opinion.

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There is a stigma associated with user3948598 type accounts whether we formally admit it or not. –  Aaron McIver Dec 9 '11 at 13:24
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Thanks for your answer! About impersonation, I thought about that too, and I found out that it can -at some extent- prevented by something 2channel/4chan invented, called tripcodes. Also, I didn't know Stack Exchange allowed anonymous posting, thanks for pointing that out. –  fedeetz Dec 9 '11 at 20:14
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@JohnDoe - Stack Overflow recently had to restrict question posting to users with registered accounts. This was due to the large volume of poor questions coming in. However, this is only a problem because of the success of the site which was built on allowing anyone to post questions. –  ChrisF Dec 11 '11 at 11:59
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Remember that if you make it too easy to post then robots on the web will post thousands of nasty spam posts on your site. It is for just this reason that CAPTCHA was invented.

I agree that CAPTCHA is a pain, and their are alternatives. But I would rather visit a message board that used a CAPTCHA when I created my account that one full of spam, porno and offers from Nigerian businessmen who will make me rich as soon as I send my bank account numbers.

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