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Why do I have to create another account every time I post on a new site?

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I can think of several reasons why you have to create a Stack Exchange account on every new site (and there are certainly more):

  • The accounts you created appear on your network profile. It's possible that users don't want to be associated with a certain product, like the eternal debate between Vi(m) and Emacs users, or Muslims who are not allowed to drink alcohol.

  • Users may also prefer to ask questions on e.g. The Workplace with an account that is not tied to their main account which reveals their real name. In those cases, we allow them to create other accounts to remain anonymous.

  • ♦ moderators have access to certain PII; I've seen very rare cases where user X does not trust moderator Y and does not want to create an account on a site where Y is a moderator.

To be honest, it's not much of a burden to add a new site to your existing (network) account. You don't have to set a new password or confirm your email address or something like that, it's just a couple of clicks and you're done.

Also, you can just browse all sites in read-only mode (I've done so unconsciously for years before I joined) - generally, you only need an account when you want to participate.

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    FWIW, Codidact doesn't have this speed bump. You just make an account and use it for all sites on the network. I assume you could just not use certain sites, and then make a new account for them if you want separate identities; I don't know offhand if there's policy against the latter. Commented Feb 16 at 14:18
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Stack Exchange users (usually) only have one account, which is used to log in to sites across the network. Unfortunately, the UI here is... really confusing and frequently uses the terms "account" and "profile" interchangeably or uses both words in multiple ways. If I could somehow fix this, I would but... it's nowhere near the top of my priority list.

The structure of the platform is based around a core network "account". This is the term used internally and in the database to refer to the entity that is a user and their login info. Each network account has a unique user ID that is the reference for that user in the database. Unfortunately, the page that represents the user's account is called their "Network profile", which is semantically correct, as it's a profile in this sense:

a collection of personal details about oneself that one curates and shares on an online platform (such as a blog or a social media service)

Definition 5 B on Merriam Webster

These network accounts act as a reference for the user's network-wide activity to other users and as the home for network-wide features, like the user's inbox and flair. These accounts exist practically forever, unless the user specifically requests they be deleted or if they're found to be underage and are deleted to comply with government regulations. Only staff can delete accounts.

Users then "join" sites, which creates a "profile" on each site they are interested in - or, in most cases, they create an account and their first profile simultaneously. This profile is tied to their network account and populates the user's network history. Each profile has its own profile ID, which is in a database table for that site. To continue the semantic confusion, the list of all site profiles a user has created is on their Network profile "accounts" tab.

Unlike accounts, user profiles are (more) regularly deleted, usually by the user, though mods and staff can delete user profiles with cause. If a profile is deleted, the user can re-create the profile but it will be assigned a new profile ID and the content created will not be reconnected to the new profile. While the profile can be deleted, some profile history information is stored in metadata on the network account, to avoid being lost in such situations.

Unless a user goes out of their way to create a new network account with different login information - which is acceptable, provided it's not done to game the system or otherwise abuse it - all of their profiles should be on the same account. This means that logging in or out on one site should log you in or out on all sites you have joined. There's one key exception.

If you have third party cookies disabled - or your browser does so automatically - you likely will not be logged in everywhere if you're a member of sites with different domain names. For example, logging in on Stack Overflow (stackoverflow.com) may not log you in on Super User (superuser.com) or sites with stackexchange.com domains and the reverse is true - while logging in on the Cooking site will log you in on Math because they're both on the Stack Exchange domain, it may not log you in on Ask Ubuntu (askubuntu.com).

Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, other than changing the domain names to all match, there's not much Stack Exchange can do about this - and if Google starts blocking 3rd party cookies, it's going to become a lot more noticeable than it is currently.

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Because each site in the Stack Exchange network is different. For example:

  • Each site has different scope.
  • Each site has its own reputation and privileges.

So for each site, you have different account, however do note they're all linked together.

There is kind of "central account" better known as "network profile", accessible at https://stackexchange.com/users/current.

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    FWIW, I took a different interpretation of the question than you did - basically I answered the question "why aren't accounts created automatically" (the body) instead of "why does SE have separate accounts" (the original title), which you answered correctly but that question probably has been asked many times before. (It's certainly possible there's a duplicate for my interpretation as well.)
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Commented Feb 15 at 19:39
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In order to aid the search for questions we tag them. Different sites can currently use the same tags and give them different meanings.

Our Cooking site has an apple tag

Identify, select, store, prepare, replace, or cook with apples as an ingredient.

So does Super User but you can't possibly think that a question on that site tagged with apple is about how to put one in the oven and then eat it afterwards.

So an expert on cooking with apples trying to find questions to answer isn't going to want to find lots of computing questions mixed in. Nor do we really want to have to prefix all cooking tags with cooking and all super-user tags with super-user or computing or some other disambiguation prefix or suffix.

We also don't want someone experienced in cooking with apples to moderate all the non-cooking apple questions and mark them off-topic or vice-versa, someone to close all the questions about cooking with apples.

So the different sites allow users with different and often non-overlapping interests to co-exist without friction and if you are a user that has multiple interests you can join multiple sites and still enjoy all of those activities as long as you remember which expert hat you have on.

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