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I think the "no registration required" message that every new visitor sees on the front page is a bit misleading.

… or isn't it?

Obviously, you have to register somehow to get started and I assume that most new users start asking questions rather than answering them – otherwise we wouldn't have this policy of registration at all.

I'd leave it up for the team to decide on a more appropriate message.

And yes, I know that you can answer questions without signing up.

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Pure logic: asking question requires login + asking questions is not required = login not required :). No, +1, good observation. – Gert Arnold Jan 30 '12 at 14:56
Hmm, don't they just mean you can "log in with your OpenID and don't have to do any registration steps besides that"? On the other hand, clarification is really welcome... +1 :) – Tom Wijsman Jan 30 '12 at 14:59
Yeah, but still you have to somehow "register" your information with the site. But I don't seem to be the only one who's not completely getting the meaning, so let's see what the official position is ;) @tom – slhck Jan 30 '12 at 15:00
@TomWijsman I don't think so, I think it's just an artifact from when you really didn't need to register to ask questions – Michael Mrozek Jan 30 '12 at 15:01
@MichaelMrozek: Yeah, but the majority of users already have an account when they first meet the login page; and hence they just click "log in with X". I agree it's kind of odd... – Tom Wijsman Jan 30 '12 at 15:03

3 Answers 3

I think it would make sense to clarify it. The message is an artifact of more innocent times, when we could trust anonymous strangers not to litter and drop all kinds of garbage, but alas things have changed.

It can't be that difficult or intrusive to add 6 extra words:

...It's 100% free, no registration required to browse or to post answers.

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Historically, "no registration required" referred to the fact that some other sites (which shall remain nameless) required you to register just to see answers to questions. You don't have to do that on Stack Exchange. Yes, you now have to register on Stack Overflow (only) in order to post a new question. That was a fairly recent change in response to a quality issue (floods of terrible questions from unregistered users). You can still post answers and browse to any post on Stack Overflow without registering, so technically registration is not required.

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But wouldn't some clarification be good? – Simon Sheehan Jan 30 '12 at 15:04
I completely get the hint about … these other sites. I was just thinking about the fact that most new users start out by asking questions here – that's just a guess, but I think this can be easily backed up by data. The principal reason I'm asking is that I showed SO to a friend, and first he was pretty excited about not having to register, but then – of course – wanted to ask a question. – slhck Jan 30 '12 at 15:04
@slhck Most users (~90%) find the site via Google when they search for an answer and find it here. So no, most users don't have to register to use the site. Posting a questions really shouldn't be the first thing a new user does here. They should either search or read the FAQ (the order doesn't matter) first. – Bill the Lizard Jan 30 '12 at 15:14
@SimonSheehan It's already clarified in the FAQ, which you have to read and acknowledge before you can ask a question. (It's also linked in the "Hello, World!" message.) – Bill the Lizard Jan 30 '12 at 15:17
"Don't scare the newbie" is always a good rule of thumb, and if clarification can be provided at a very small expense (here, the addition of six words), that's far better than saying "yeah, but its clarified in the FAQ". – eykanal Jan 30 '12 at 15:39
@eykanal What's scary about this? That message is brief for a reason. We want people to read the FAQ. – Bill the Lizard Jan 30 '12 at 15:41
(1) By "scare", in this context, I mean "say anything which isn't completely true and not subject to misinterpretation". (2) We definitely want people to read the FAQ, but we don't want them to get frustrated with the site and leave before they get there. /n/n This is a very "cheap" change, as the cost is just six words, with immediate benefit and almost no downside. I definitely think it should be fixed. – eykanal Jan 30 '12 at 15:52
@eykanal New users are shown the FAQ before they're shown the "You must log in to ask a question" message. The message is completely true and not subject to misinterpretation if people read what they're supposed to. I don't have a problem with changing it, I just don't see any benefit. – Bill the Lizard Jan 30 '12 at 16:02
cough Quora cough – Doorknob Jun 26 '13 at 16:57

On sites where registration is required to ask questions, the message now ends with, "It's 100% free."

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