Wikipedia:Why not create an account?
This is Wikipedia. You do not have to log in to edit, and almost anyone can edit almost any article at any given time. But be aware that the source of an edit is always publicly displayed; making edits with an artificially named Wikipedia account means your account's name will be linked to every edit. That means less freedom and less transparency. By contrast, an IP address allows editors more freedom to edit (and more protection from wikidrama). Wherever you are, whatever your device, if you make edits using your IP address, your transparency will be total: only the IP address you used will ever be displayed to anyone, even CheckUsers.
Not creating an account is quicker, more completely free in resource costs, and more entirely non-intrusive, than creating an account. It is easier to join the community and share what you know, and especially easier to get more incisive feedback from registered editors. Each of us volunteers in different ways. Some Wikipedians make it a hobby, and others just like to have their IP addresses ready for those times when they notice possible improvements.
Wikipedians can focus on content (e.g., we have volunteer journalists, editors, commentators), systems maintenance (e.g., anti-vandals, software developers), and much more (e.g., artists providing images through our Wikimedia Commons project, creators of guides to welcome and support new editors, projects in your local community, and much more (e.g., and much more)).
What an unregistered user can do
As a general rule, unregistered users can do most things that registered users can. As current policy stands, unregistered users have the same rights as registered users to participate in the writing of Wikipedia. Unregistered users may edit articles, participate in talk page discussions, contribute to policy proposals and do some things that a registered user can do. There are, however, some specific actions where unregistered users require the assistance of registered users: as will be seen, this works out more for the protection of the unregistered user than for anyone else.
Policy and guidelines affect all users, registered and unregistered, equally. Unregistered users may create talk pages in any talk namespace, including creation and submission of properly tagged userspace drafts, allowing sufficient process for all content creation needs: you can collaborate, share information about yourself, or just practice editing and publishing.
You do not need to reveal your offline identity, but having a static IP, or a recognizable dynamic IP range, gives you a fixed Wikipedia identity that other users will take pains to recognize. You will have a static or dynamic user talk page you can use to communicate with other users. You will be notified whenever someone writes a message on your talk page. From there, you can also view a convenient list of all your contributions from your IP, and you can use the "top" marker within the contributions to monitor changes made to pages that interest you. You will get full credit for your contributions in the page history, which are assigned to your IP address. All users may send emails to other users who have openly disclosed their email addresses. All users may also query the site API in 500-record batches.
Unregistered users are able to fully participate in deletion discussions, and have been since 2005. On the few occasions when decisions on Wikipedia are decided by democracy (e.g., request for adminship, elections to the arbitration committee) unregistered users may participate fully in the discussions without voting. (Rather than being evidence of the untrustworthiness of unregistered users, this is in fact because of the untrustworthiness of registered users. If unregistered users were allowed to vote, disreputable registered users could log out of their accounts to vote twice.)
Summary of benefits
Registered users are often called "accounts". But in fact, because their IP addresses are hidden, you, the IP editor, are more "account"able! The only difference between you and registered contributors is that they are hiding behind usernames. But, unlike account-based editors, while you are unregistered:
- You can have your general geolocation and ISP affiliation publicly and transparently recorded without equivocation, rather than hide behind a persona calculated to project a particular geolocation or personal affiliation.
- You can avoid specious requests for CheckUser typically faced by account-based editors. Because of your greater transparency, Checkusers cannot determine anything new whatsoever about you that is not already public. In cases where another user is suspicious but there is actually no linkage, if Checkusers link two named accounts a misdiagnosis of sockpuppetry is a real risk; but if Checkusers link a named account with an IP (or IP range) that has always been uniquely personable and scrupulously forthcoming with details about the way the IP range is used, misdiagnosis is avoidable. The natural unaccountability of usernames leaves registered users playing catchup when accused.
- Because of misconceptions, your unregistered edits are more likely to attract and root out other editors' practices that run against the philosophy of Wikipedia and founding principles of all Wikimedia projects, in cases when the IP edits are mistakenly reverted and their contributions to talk pages discounted. While this systemic bias can decrease the efficiency of processing IP content, it is better for the project overall because the misconceptions can be countered and overcome by patience. Good content will ultimately prevail, but IP editing allows the benefit of simultaneously countering bias by engendering community review of knee-jerk editing. (Coincidentally, most knee-jerk editing arises from tools available solely to registered editors.)
- You stay under protection. "Page protection" not only protects the project but also protects the IP editor proactively against involvement in account-based wikidrama. But this is just one area where the IP editor is protected against making or being hurt by the thoughtless contributions common to "autoconfirmed" editors. In fact, in virtually every area where something can go wrong, the IP editor's actions are subject to review by other editors or the community. IP requests sustained by one or more other editors have much more force of consensus than the same actions taken by single account-based editors on their own initiative. As an IP editor, you can make requests for tasks, and enjoy the protection inherent in having other editors perform and ratify the tasks involved, whenever you want to upload images, rename pages, start new pages, and even edit semi-protected pages without ever waiting for autoconfirmation (10 edits and 4 days).
- Blocks against unregistered users operate differently also. Because the person contributing today from an IP address may not be the same person that contributed previously, blocks are typically limited in duration. Further, IP users never have to deal with the confusion arising from the simultaneous block of an account and its underlying IP or range. (Note: Disruptive editing is never tolerated and IPs should never be used to game the blocking system.)
- Via CAPTCHA, you receive a helpful reminder to test link validity if you wish to make an edit that involves the addition of one or more external links; you also receive a confirmation message to verify desire to purge pages.
- You can edit without being linked to any segregated accounts you may have had legitimate use for, except by the few users who have the CheckUser permission and who do not give it out to the public, but retain the data solely among themselves and holders of secret government subpoenas if any. (Note: Illegitimate accounts are not tolerated at any time and their use is no better for IP editors than for registered editors. The benefits of IP editing are solely for those who are here to improve Wikipedia.)
- By avoiding the use of editing tools commonly abused by account-based editors, you ensure responsibility for each and every edit. You will never be accused of mismarking new pages as being patrolled or of misreverting another's good-faith edit as vandalism. You will never be accused of being a rouge admin or of abusing restricted special pages.
- You will never be scrutinized with a fine-toothed comb for the possibilities of adminship, bureaucratship, or gaining other permissions.
- You never have to create an artificial, previously unused, freshly logged, politically correct, pseudonymous username identity. In fact, many editors will both forget your full IP address and never refer to you by full IP but only indirectly and hesitantly. Being known by IP address has all the social benefits of an impossible-to-spell surname!
- Finally, you never have to worry about creating the many editing-related breadcrumbs that account-based editors routinely create unthinkingly that can be used against them by other editors with viewing privileges whether or not they have engaged in any problematic behavior. Breadcrumbs that can be suspected of containing hints to your identity, that are frequently cited by suspicious editors in disputes, and that are totally avoided by IP editors, include custom preferences, signature histories and other profile usages, self-centered user pages, email addresses, vote histories in Arbitration Committee elections and Wikimedia Board elections, project unified logins, and especially page watchlists.
For a little bit more detail, read on. Or, beat account applicants to the punch and start editing a random article before they can say their passwords twice: be a raindrop in the ocean and contribute to the Wikipedia Project the way that you want to!
Some benefits explained
If you create an account, you can only pick a username if it is available and unique. All edits you make while logged in will be assigned to that name. For the sake of "privacy", this creates an opaque barrier (a persona or mask) between the editor and the edits. Edits logged to an IP are disarmingly transparent and no IP edit can ever be accused of hiding an identity. In fact, IP editing not only edits without an artificial mask, it also tends to lead those editors who contribute toward a systemic anti-IP bias to drop their masks as well, treating IP edits more ruthlessly (and thus more honestly) than others.
You actually remove your identifiability logged in, rather than when you are as an unregistered editor, owing to the hiding of your IP address. Various factors, including privacy and the possibility of offline harassment, affect selecting a username, and a misselected username that can be linked to a personal identity can never be retracted, while an IP address can never be linked to any more data than is publicly available at the time of the edit.
Reputation and privacy
Wikipedia welcomes contributions from unregistered editors. Editing under a static IP lets you build trust and respect through a history of good edits. Editing under a dynamic IP can also build reputation if a single IP talk page (e.g., the first IP used) becomes a repository for linking histories of other IPs used. When you share an IP with other Wikipedia edits you did not make, clearly distinguishing your own edits and disclaiming (or even reverting) problematic edits from others is a useful good-faith measure. Adding a link to the history repository, from other IP pages in a dynamic range and from your talk comments, is very helpful.
It is easier to communicate and collaborate with an editor if we know who you are on Wikipedia. It is easier for veteran users to assume good faith from new users who take the effort to distinguish their edits and link their histories (and you may well become a veteran IP user yourself some day!). You may well be afforded a great deal less leeway if you do not go to the trouble of making these distinctions, but you will likely receive more leeway than a sockpuppeteer: linking multiple named accounts is a moral responsibility, but (because of their variability) linking multiple IPs is only a best-efforts recommendation.
As your reputation builds, it is possible to earn privileges such as deference to your opinion and closer attention to your edit requests. It is not possible for a registered editor to make similar edit requests to semi-protected articles without an investigation of motives, because the registered editor has already asked for the responsibility to make the edit directly without ratification by others.
If you log in, all your edits are publicly associated with your account name, and are internally associated with your IP address. See Wikipedia's "privacy" policy for more information on this practice. The privacy implications of this vary, depending on the nature of your Internet Service Provider, local laws and regulations, and the nature and quantity of your edits to Wikipedia. Be aware that Wikipedia technologies and policies may change. If you are not logged in, all your edits are, much more transparently, publicly associated with your IP address at the time of that edit.
Shared IP addresses such as school and enterprise networks or proxy servers are frequently blocked for vandalism which, unfortunately, may also affect innocent editors on the same network. However, unregistered users in good standing can request existing blocks on their IP address be removed so that they can continue contributing to Wikipedia. If you are currently blocked from creating an account, we suggest you do one of the following:
- Try again after the block on your IP address expires. Go to the IP contributions and follow the Block log link at the top of that page to find the length of the block.
- Request an unblock if your positive contributions can reasonably be held as outweighing the behaviors of others leading to the IP block. Being proactive before any blocks occur, by stating your acceptance of the invigorating risk that other parties may compromise your IP, will work in your favor if the need for unblock request arises.