What Is an Anonymous Login?

Alex Newth

An anonymous login, also sometimes called an anonymous logon, is a process by which a user signs into a website or online service without a username or email authentication. A password is still typically needed, and this password is often the user’s primary email address. When someone performs an anonymous login, he or she is able to use the service under the name “anonymous,” often followed by numbers to reduce redundant information. While this keeps others from knowing the identity of the anonymous user, it can compromise Internet safety, and the anonymous user is usually barred from using some features. Anonymous logins do still reveal some information about the user, because servers are able to pick up the user’s Internet protocol (IP) address.

Passwords are still typically needed for a website that can be accessed without a user name or email address.
Passwords are still typically needed for a website that can be accessed without a user name or email address.

Many forums, chats and websites offer a service called an anonymous login. By using this service, someone can still access the forum or chat without having to go through an authentication process, which makes it faster for the user. To sign into the anonymous username, the user will generally have to enter an email address as the password. Some websites use this email address for tracking purposes, while others apply it to statistical analysis operations.

Anonymous logins may compromise the user's Internet safety.
Anonymous logins may compromise the user's Internet safety.

When someone performs an anonymous login, he or she commonly gets the name “anonymous” followed by numbers, such as “anonymous875423.” There are two reasons for these numbers. If a chat or forum were full of several people with the same username, it would be very difficult to know which user is talking, so the numbers serve to differentiate anonymous users. Another reason is to reduce redundant information in the website’s databases, because redundant information can cause problems.

An anonymous login can be misused to compromise the website’s safety. For example, because less information is collected on the user and he or she is not authenticated, it is easier for that user to perform malicious attacks. To mitigate this and to push the user into performing a regular login, anonymous users are typically unable to use some of the chat or forum functions, such as posting websites or images.

The users who perform an anonymous login without malicious intent want to remain unknown either for privacy reasons or because the user does not want others to know he or she is part of a certain website. This is accomplished in to some degree, because other users will not know the anonymous user's identity. In another way, this is a failure, because administrators can check the anonymous user’s IP address, computer information and other data, so the user is not entirely anonymous.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - Honestly, if you are ashamed of it, or scared of people in real life finding out you shouldn't trust it to the anonymity of the internet these days.

There was a case recently where a kid tried to email a bomb threat to his school in order to get out of an exam. He went through what he thought was completely anonymous channels and didn't expect to get caught.

But they recorded his system log through the university wireless service and tracked him down.


@pleonasm - I don't actually think that they are ever going to be able to completely stop people from writing down anonymous hate in comment sections. Even with a system that only allows authenticated users, you will still end up with people using throwaway accounts in order to get their point across.

Unless they come up with a way of solidly linking a real life identity with an internet identity, this is going to continue. And I really hope they don't do that, because it's already hard enough to maintain privacy without every single mistake and bad habit being recorded online for prosperity.


I really think the days of anonymous surfing and commenting are coming to an end. More and more places are requiring people to register or even hook the account to their email or Facebook before they can comment.

And I can't say that I'm completely sorry. There is a lot of hate and vile comments that go on in places where people are allowed to be anonymous. I think it's mainly teenagers, but even so it's a terrible thing for people to have to see, particularly when they are reading articles on serious subjects.

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