In websites where authentication is local, or mixed local and remote (e.g. OpenID), I still often see the question for a username. I can very well understand this in the case of twitter, where the username is used in many ways. But, in many other websites, like a webshop, the username is just for authentication.

So, is there a good reason not to just authenticate on e-mail address? Are usernames mostly obsolete?

5 Answers 5


Usernames provide a "face" to the world. They're great on forums, etc. to hide the identity of the poster, or allow some personalization. However, for the purpose of logging in, e-mail seems universally better. Most sites I've seen with usernames have a "forgot username" button right next to the "forgot password" button, which should tell you why :-).

For a worst case scenario of this, Washington Mutual's website used to have login via e-mail address. After they were acquired by chase, I was automatically assigned this wonderful username: fraserofthenightgmailcomwmb2715 (with different numbers -- but they're totally random, not related to my account number). Guess how many times I clicked "forgot username" until I realized I could write it down...

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    I call fail on any website that won't let me change my username. And thankfully, most websites that have a "face to the world" side of them allow you to decide what you want your name to be. Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 22:43

The problem with email addresses is that they are longer and require @ which make them harder to type. Personally I prefer usernames because it makes my life a bit easier.

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    I'm the opposite - I prefer email addresses, because I have just the one email account. Since my email address is unique (otherwise I wouldn't be able to use it!), my login on your website is going to be unique. Also, some websites have constraints on usernames (why!?!?) such as "you have to have at least 1 number in there" or "has to be less than 8 characters". Now, all of a sudden, I'm relying on the browser to remember my username because it's not my normal email OR login I like to use everywhere else, due to some stupid pointless requirements. Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 22:41

The BBC allows you to log in with either your e-mail address or your username. You also have a completely separate display name. There are some constraints on usernames: no spaces or underscores. But I have an old DNA username from the days when the DNA system was different from BBC iD. My username does contain an underscore, so I need to use my e-mail address to log in.

I think that's the simplest way to do it. One box into which you can type either your username or your e-mail address. And have a constraint that usernames cannot contain the @ sign.


Give the user the choice. Just let them use their email as verification or an optional username.

  • Might be confusing Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 3:59
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    @Robert: How so? If they can use either they don't have to remember, and get the best of both worlds. An easy to remember username or an easy to type username. Users are grown ups, let them decide, just make it easy for them: one login field, and you figure out if it's a username or email.
    – googletorp
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 5:13

There are several reasons. Not all users would appreciate having their email address available for everyone to see if the ID is publicly viewable. Also, for security, I'd recommend displaying the username publicly, but having the user login with the email address. The email address is also easier for users to remember.

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