Usernames Are So 1996

I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point, you visit a website that you registered with, maybe your company’s healthcare provider, but you’ve totally forgotten your username and password. If you’re anything like me, you have a few usernames you’ve used over the years and a few passwords you might have used, but which ones are they? A few minutes of trying and I usually give up and ask for my username and password to be e-mailed to me.


This scenario happens to me over and over again and I never seem to get used to it. Is there another way? Are usernames really the best method for registering users?

This type of user registration is a bad idea and unnecessary.

  • Con: hassle to remember for users
  • Con: must be unique, so registering with a site where your ‘usual’ username is taken becomes a problem
  • Con: username nomenclature randomly varies from site to site, some allow spaces, some must contain a number, some must be 8 or more characters making it a problem to create a username that works for all sites
  • Con: Unless you have an ‘online community’ usernames add an additional level of complexity to any system

So smarty pants, if it were up to you, how would users register on a website?

By e-mail address.

  • Pro: totally individual
  • Pro: already remembered
  • Pro: serves as a way to verify registration

In essence we are all known by our e-mail addresses. Since everyone has one they serve as the perfect form of user verification.

So who is still using usernames in 2005?

  • Amtrak
  • American Express
  • Empire BlueCross BlueShield
  • eBay
  • Commerce Bank
  • HSBC
  • Roxio (although they have added e-mail option)
  • Network Solutions
  • GoDaddy
  • AIGA
  • Verizon
  • Adobe
  • Basecamp
  • Backpack

Shame, shame, shame!

So who should use usernames?

In essence, only e-mail hosting companies should use usernames, because in essence they are creating an e-mail address with their username. You couldn’t really have Yahoo expect an e-mail address to create an e-mail address, that would be akin to which came first the chicken or the egg?