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In registering for this site, I was told I could not register unless I enabled third-party cookies.

I can think of no good reason why a site should require third-party cookies and, therefore, I do not intend to allow their use in the general case.

Ironically, I have made a session exception so that I can ask this question.

Please can you tell me why third-party cookies are required for Stack Overflow, and specifically why they are so important to the site that they are a requirement for (new?) users.

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"I was told I could not register unless I enabled third-party cookies." -- I'm not aware of us giving that message. Who exactly said "you can't register" without? It's plain not true. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/109126/…. –  balpha Mar 24 '12 at 11:00
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Actually it may be the case that the "create a Stack Exchange OpenId" shortcut requires that, since at least some of that is happening in an IFRAME. You can just go directly through openid.stackexchange.com/account/register if you want, though, or just use a different OpenId. –  balpha Mar 24 '12 at 11:15
    
This page cannot be found. –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 11:52
    
Ronald, @balpha's link works fine for me. Maybe his comment was edited while you were posting your comment? (If it works for you too, then please delete your comments; I will clean up mine than too.) –  Arjan Mar 24 '12 at 13:10
    
Update: the page reported as being "not found" when I was logged in. After I logged out there, it worked as expected. This seems to be an odd behaviour. –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 13:21

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As of the latest deploy of our OpenID provider, this is alleviated a bit.

While you still get the best experience if you have 3rd party cookies enabled...

enter image description here

some new guidance is available. Clicking that link takes you to the openid.stackexchange.com login page, which functions properly with 3rd party cookies disabled, and logining will redirect you back to the Stack Exchange site.

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That completely failed to answer the question... –  DanteTheEgregore Dec 25 '13 at 4:22

In registering for this site, I was told I could not register unless I enabled third-party cookies.

I'm still waiting for your reply on who exactly told you that, but it's not true. Actually, I just found the message; it's returned by our OpenId provider. This may need some updating, since it's really not true.

I can think of no good reason why a site should require third-party cookies and, therefore, I do not intend to allow their use in the general case.

There certainly are good reasons for third-party cookies to exist. They're a great feature in particular when you have a network of sites that spans several domains, and want to make the use of that network more convenient to users. That said, any tool can be abused, so I can comprehend why you're wary of allowing them.

As I said, we do not require them.

All features that a browser could consider third-party cookies (even though they actually aren't for the most part; see my answer here) are totally optional. They make some stuff nicer and easier for the user, but they're not required.

This includes using localStorage access in a cross-domain IFRAME for the global login, so a user doesn't have to log in to each site seperately (but they're obviously free to take that extra step if they don't want to allow any cross-domain data), and the OpenId creation shortcut may require actual third-party cookies.

But since you're neither required to create an OpenId with us (you can use any other), nor, even if you want to create one with us, you're not required to do it right there (you can also go to StackExchange OpenId directly), disallowing cross-domain data does not prevent you from using the site.

Ironically, I have made a session exception so that I can ask this question.

Welcome to Stack Exchange :) You can clear all third party cookies now; the sites will still work.

Please can you tell me why third-party cookies are required for Stack Overflow, and specifically why they are so important to the site that they are a requirement for (new?) users.

Once again, they are not.

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I'm sorry, but you are mistaken. When I attempt to use the sign up form or login box in Firefox 9 for Mac OS X, I am given the following message which lies over the required form: "Third Party Cookies Appear To Be Disabled This site depends on third-party cookies, please add an exception for openid.stackexchange.com/."; Whether or not this is intentional, I cannot register or log in without allowing third-party cookies. –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 11:43
    
Yes, that's precisely the message I mean in my first paragraph. We should update that, since (as I say in the rest of my answer), it's not really accurate. –  balpha Mar 24 '12 at 11:45
    
I'm confused, then, by your claim that third-party cookies are not required - since, de facto, I am required to use them. Is this a bug? –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 11:48
    
The bug is the confusing error message. Third party cookies are not required, as I point out in my answer. They just make it more convenient for you to create an OpenId with our provider, but less convenient doesn't mean not possible. –  balpha Mar 24 '12 at 11:54
    
The bug is the fact that the confusing error message completely obscures the login box, so in fact I cannot login (via the Stackoverflow login option) while the error message is present. Do you mean to say that I can login without third party cookies, but only if I use some other OpenID provider other than your native Stackoverflow option? It is not clear that you have understood the problem. –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 11:59
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You can also login with our OpenId provider, but the way it currently works (once again, I agree with you that this may warrant some streamlining) you may have to manually enter "openid.stackexchange.com" under "more login options". –  balpha Mar 24 '12 at 12:04
    
Thank you for these clear instructions. –  Ronald Mar 24 '12 at 12:05

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