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When I'm surfing between SE sites where I'm a member (e.g. I'm on SO and I click on a link to Web Apps or something), any of these things can happen, seemingly at random:

  • Everything is seamless and I'm logged in automatically
  • Or I get a big notification bar saying "Welcome back Mr Lister; Click here to refresh"
  • Or I'm not logged in at all and I need to click the Log In link manually

Why is that? What causes these differences?

I found this question, which has a tag, but I'm not sure if it's the same problem.

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Are you on multiple computers? – Yawus Jul 20 '12 at 17:27
@Yawus No, all my SE surfing is done from one computer. – Mr Lister Jul 20 '12 at 17:29
Ah, I was thinking that maybe your OpenID was registered on one comp and not the others. Although, I'm still fairly certain that your OpenID has something to do with this. – Yawus Jul 20 '12 at 17:30
From what I understand, visiting a site for the first time requires a manual login. If you have already logged in somewhere else, it will do the "welcome mr lister" thing, and make you refresh, and if youve been there recently and logged in, it will keep it. – Wug Jul 20 '12 at 17:31
@Wug It could be something to do with "recently", yes. At least I do think when I visit a site I haven't visited recently I often have a Log in link. But I'm not sure about the big notification bar, why it comes up at some times and not at others. – Mr Lister Jul 20 '12 at 17:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm a little surprised not to find this information in the , but anyway, it is described in a Stack Exchange blog post. In summary:

  • Everything is seamless and I'm logged in automatically

If you visit a Stack Exchange site and you find yourself logged in right away, that means you are still logged in from your last visit to that same site. The "usr" cookie is valid for 6 months, and is refreshed every now and then when using the site.

  • Or I get a big notification bar saying "Welcome back Mr Lister; Click here to refresh"

When you see this notification bar, it means that you either have never visited or have been logged out from this particular site, but you have recently logged into another site on the network. (I'm having a hard time finding out how recent is recent in this case, but I think it might be on the order of 30 days; hopefully someone will offer a number for that.) Note that it's not enough to just have visited another site in the SE network - you actually have to have gone through the authentication process within the time frame.

  • Or I'm not logged in at all and I need to click the Log In link manually

This happens when you don't have an account on the site you're visiting, or when you do but you haven't authenticated recently enough on another site. Note that accounts are associated using the OpenID as a key, so if you have different accounts on different sites that use different OpenIDs, authenticating with one won't enable the automatic login for another.

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I think logging out disables the auto-login for that very site? Anyway, above all order is important; from How does SO's new auto-login feature work?: if you visit one site, then log in on another, and then go back to the first, you'll need to click "log in" to trigger the process. And see also Why does it says “welcome back -user- click here to 'refresh page'” and Why does StackExchange ask for a reload on successful automatic login? – Arjan Jul 24 '12 at 17:42
(The last link in my comment lacks a slash; this works better.) – Arjan Jul 24 '12 at 17:59
Ah, logging out from a site 1) stops auto-logging in to any other site one was not logged in to yet (the HTML5 Local Storage is wiped), and 2) keeps one from being auto-logged in to that very first site even after explicitly logging in to another site, until one restarts the browser (the "gauthed" cookie is wiped), or until one explicitly clicks "log in". – Arjan Jul 24 '12 at 18:12
Well, the links don't completely satisfy my curiosity, but since this is the best answer to my question, I'll accept this one. – Mr Lister Aug 19 '12 at 14:56
Also note that Chrome 21 has a bug that does not clear the local storage when manually trying to clear the date. – Arjan Aug 22 '12 at 17:21

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