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For a web app I'm developing I was dreading having to

  1. Require users to create yet another account / password to keep in mind
  2. Handle retrieval of lost passwords, etc.

What many sites (like this one for instance) has started offering is to use a third party account to create an account.

What I wonder is whether it would be considered ok to require having third party account, i.e.

stack exchange login without first party login

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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Lots of apps rely simply on a Facebook log in. At this point it's become safe to assume that most people using your site or web app will be using Facebook, so if you're not concerned about users who don't want their account to your site linked to any of their other accounts, go ahead, just use Facebook log in.

However, you should keep in mind that most people seem to prefer not doing that. There was a post on HN a while ago about someone who did a quick and dirty google survey and asked whether people used their facebook log in on websites. Turns out that most people would prefer not to.

So, while many apps do do it, I think it's best practice to provide an alternative. So, while you may be dreading developing it, what's more important is your users, and how they experience your app. If being forced to use Facebook turns them off from your app, do you really want that to be an obstacle?

Edit: here's the link to that blog post: http://www.jamiegrove.com/user-experience/34-5-of-us-internet-population-not-using-facebooktwitter

And here's the link to the HN thread, note the first response - there are some problems with the way the survey was conducted http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4495934

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First of all, I would provide for more alternatives then just Facebook, probably four or so + openID. But I see your point, and yeah, I was really looking for some kind of studies on what percentage of users create a new account using an old account, if the option is available. –  Theodor Oct 11 '12 at 17:41
    
Yeah, I used Facebook because they're easily the largest player within the field of one click log in. I'll have a look if I can find that blog post. –  Simon Oct 11 '12 at 17:44
    
Great blog post, thanks. –  Theodor Oct 12 '12 at 10:51
    
I find those survey results...extremely suspect. A much larger survey here found the number of Facebook users alone was 71% almost 2 years ago allfacebook.com/… and I'm sure that number has only increased since then. –  Ben Brocka Oct 12 '12 at 15:09
    
@Ben As I mentioned in my answer - most people will be using Facebook, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people will trust your site with their Facebook details. The answer's point was really more of a "you should cater to all users". But you're right, the numbers are suspect, but I think the point of the survey is still valid. –  Simon Oct 12 '12 at 18:30
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Go ahead. I've done some field research on this. Turns out offering a 3rd party login, results in a ±15% increase of new users. Two tips:

  • Keep it lightweight, don't ask your visitors for too much information. You don't want to scare them off, just the basic_info should be enough for your average sign-up.

  • Try to offer different login options (3 should be enough). The preferred choice is Google's login and although most people have a Facebook account, they're afraid Facebook will post to their Timeline without their permission.

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Have you published this research anywhere for you to link to? We'd be interested to see it. –  JonW Mar 1 at 2:30
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A good article to read on this topic is Social Login Buttons Aren’t Worth It by Aarron Walter. I disagree with the sensationalist headline itself, but there's some important facts to take into account:

  • Social logins reduce log in failure rates
  • Good error messages reduced them even more significantly
  • Social login buttons put security in someone else’s hands (this is a feature and a risk of course, debatable either way)
  • Social logins put someone else's brand on your login page
  • Social logins can confuse users as to which service they signed up with

As long as your sign up method is bare-bones (email, password, nothing else) I really don't see a big benefit in removing it. There's a cognitive cost for each added login type of course, and one single login option is the simplest, but it seems silly not to offer the default standard of email + password.

Also consider that offering only one social network type risks alienating all those who don't use that network or don't want to share that info with you. Email + password is a great fallback at the very least.

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There's not really a general rule of thumb. For sites built around social connections it may be totally okay to offer only a few third party logins.

But, anytime you require a sign in like this you are also explicitly turning people away -- people who may be valuable to your offering. Any time you turn away someone who is valuable you create rejection. Rejection is a negative emotion and can be triggered in someone's subconscious, even if you don't intend to.

If there's a good reason to turn people who aren't on Facebook, for example, go for it. But, if you are doing it just to be a lazy developer, think twice about it.

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Short answer: No.

Offering third party login is a convenience you offer to people already having an account with the third party. Not something you should require to become your customer.

Don't risk your business by requiring your clients to involve third party, that's not what they come to your site for. While someone might be interested in what you have to offer, it doesn't mean they are willing to register with any of the options you offer to get it. There can be numerous reasons for that. Ones that you won't be able to conceive. Many may even be outrageous and down-right irrational. And sometimes just as simple as a pet-hate for the third party of your choice.

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The question probably isn't "Would it be considered ok to require having third party account?" but more "Would 3rd party login functionality suit my userbase?"

You really need to take a look at your target audience, if you are after a web savvy young audience that is used to spending a lot of time on social networks then most likely they will already be familiar with this type of login option. However, if your audience steps up a generation or two, that may not be the same. There are still many users out there that have a real concern about security, many might feel that by logging in with a social network they might use, your app could then use their personal information maliciously. If this is so, the user will simply turn away from your service and find it elsewhere. Had a native login been available, you may not have lost them.

You should also think about the type of app / service you are providing, is it suitable to hook up a social network to your service? Let me give you an example. Lets say you run a private members only site surrounding the trading of stocks, it probably isn't best to link up with social networks as the user may have little confidence that your app won't broadcast their activity for all to see.

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About "There are still many users out there that have a real concern about security", I personally feel more safe letting Google handle my personal information than say the Mom and Pop site selling peanut butter. But, other people may not it perceive it that way. You do make a good point, if you haven't come across this type of login alternative before, you might be confused, and even worse, leave. –  Theodor Oct 11 '12 at 17:47
    
@Theodor: Mom and Pop sites are much less of a target for hackers than Google is... –  Marjan Venema Oct 12 '12 at 11:09
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I don't really agree that the question is better asked as you phrase, just different. Just because a third party login suits your user base doesn't mean you should require it. It's an important question to ask first, but it doesn't supersede it. –  Ben Brocka Oct 12 '12 at 14:58
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