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This is similiar to this question except it's not about reputation.

In fact, I agree that different sites should have different reps, it's more the fact the system has to log you into each site manually. I would've thought a more logical approach would be to just have one logon mechanism which logged you into all SE sites.

Not only that, if you want to participate in another SE site, you have to register again - it's only a few clicks, its just weird you have to do it at all, esp now there are about 50 or so sites. Even when you're already logged on and you jump you across to another site, it requires that you refresh.

So this isn't a complaint. None of these things stop me from doing anything, but they are things that require the user to do a tiny bit more. So more just out of curiosity, why doesn't SE have a single sign on system? Is it a design restriction made when SO was only one site that cannot be easily overcome? Is it an intended behaviour? Like some sort of symbolic boundary to let the user know that they have moved to a different area of SE?

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One thing that you can do with "separate" accounts is have a separate nickname on each site or even a separate account on some sites that you don't associate with your "main" account. –  Anna Lear Aug 7 '11 at 1:36
    
possible duplicate of Use one account for all sites, except reputation and badges –  Cody Gray Aug 7 '11 at 4:02
    
@Anna : well even if there was a single sign on system, there's no technical reason why you couldn't keep custom nicknames or any number of customizations for each account. –  RoboShop Aug 7 '11 at 12:42
    
@Robo All your accounts would still be linked, though. I guess you could implement hiding the association. I'm not really saying that it's impossible to have the same features with a single account, but rather why implement that when they're already "free" with separate accounts? –  Anna Lear Aug 7 '11 at 15:12
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"what's the history behind X" is not the same as "X sucks, let's get rid of it"; hence not a dupe. –  Pops Jul 23 '12 at 20:02

1 Answer 1

This is part philosophical, part technical, and part historical.

Historically, we've gone from 1, to 4, to 50+ sites. User records started off as part of a site's database (there being no "network" database), and have stayed that way. This is why you can have 2 x # of sites credentials on the Stack Exchange network (there was a brief mention on the latest podcast about some work being done to rectify this w.r.t. credentials).

Technically, because of how cookies work we can't actually do a true "single sign-on" since we can't attach a cookie that is available to both stackoverflow.com and programmers.stackexchange.com. At best, we can reduce it to 7 sign-on; one each for StackOverflow & Meta.SO, SuperUser and it's meta, ServerFault and it's meta, StackApps, AskUbuntu and it's meta, Answers.OnStartups and it's meta, and all *.StackExchanges. This is why global login requires a refresh, because we have to use mechanism other than cookies to do it (I've written up the details before).

Philosophically, distinct user accounts make more sense to me than the alternative (that being a universal "Stack Exchange account"). Being an activity member on a programming site can't really be taken as a signal that you're enthusiastic about gaming, or parenting, or cooking, or bicycles, or ...

We're definitely open to stream lining making a new account on a site, but I do think a certain amount of friction is desirable.

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