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Why separate Stack Exchange accounts?

This is intended as feedback, not a question.

I tried to vote up a question on Superuser.com. I need to login. Okay fine, I use StackOverflow all the time. Wait, why am I not already logged into StackExchange? I am already logged in on StackOverflow!

Okay, fine I am willing to log in again. I use the email I use on StackExchange. This does not work. Not only can I not login on StackExchange, it doesn't even recognize my email. I spent a bunch of time going back and forth and verifying my email is the one known by StackOverflow, and typed it in a dozen times to make sure yes, I typed it in correctly. I also try to type my StackOverflow user handle, which is not even recognized as valid format.

As far as I can tell from the documentation and branding shown to me, StackExchange should recognize the email I use with StackOverflow; even better, the user handle also.

(What I eventually found to work was to use Google OpenID to verify my identity. I was worried that this would create a second, useless account. Luckily StackExchange did recognize that the two accounts should be merged.)

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marked as duplicate by jonsca, jmort253, Toon Krijthe, Manishearth, Martijn Pieters Nov 22 '12 at 8:46

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

If you go to your user page (on both sites) and click 'my logins' what does it show? –  Robotnik Nov 22 '12 at 2:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It should work... A common misconception in your situation is to "log in with Stack Exchange". You don't have a Stack Exchange OpenID on file on Stack Overflow, which leads me to believe that you don't actually have one. This isn't the same as having an account on Stack Exchange. Believe me, I understand how utterly confusing this is, but the gist is that you can sign in to our sites in many different ways, "Stack Exchange OpenID" being just one of them. Many people use Google or Facebook instead.

Since you use Gmail on Stack Overflow, choosing "log in with Google" is exactly what you needed to do. (Also to sign back into Stack Overflow if you ever log out.)

For what it's worth, we recognize that our login system is way too complicated and we're actively working on some improvements.

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awesome, thanks! –  LisaD Nov 23 '12 at 15:03

This takes some getting used to at first. The idea of "login" and "account" being one and the same is a leftover archetype from the days of having a separate username and password on each and every service we use on the Internet.

OAuth and OpenID changed that, and they've taught us that "login" and "account" are decoupled. Logins are like identification badges that are used to allow us entry into many different services, and we can have many logins for the same service, analogous to being able to use a passport or a drivers license to prove we are who we say we are.

While it's confusing at first, as more and more organizations and developers "wake up" and realize they can give their users more than one key to the city, this will become more normal. I'm sure there was a time where usernames and passwords were a new thing that people felt were confusing. ;) Glad you were able to finally get in!

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I was the area director who chartered the OAuth working group to do its work in the IETF... and I still couldn't figure it out :) Anyway I'm perfectly happy understanding this is a work in progress! –  LisaD Nov 23 '12 at 15:06

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