Email Is History

  |  September 11, 2013   |  Comments

One of the most frustrating and unnecessarily annoying speed bumps of the Internet is the login "username."

One of the most frustrating and unnecessarily annoying speed bumps of the Internet is the login "username."

Typically a minimum of six characters but sometimes requiring as many as eight, the username is an antiquated concept that doesn't help publishers, users, or anyone else. What's the solution?

Publishers should ditch the oft-forgotten "username" and replace it with something that everyone can remember: one of the user's email addresses.

There are four reasons why the email address makes for a superior login credential compared to a generic username.

  1. Uniqueness. How many times have you gotten rejected because your name is Mike Smith? You can't use Msmith, you can't even get msmith8377. Even if you could get something with your first initial and last name, will you remember msmith8377? Email addresses are unique, and it's unlikely that you will forget any of your several email addresses.
  2. Data collection and verification. When someone submits her email address as a username, it is the beginning of a beautiful and verified partnership, the first step being the verification of the user. With services such as LeadSpend and BriteVerify, you can instantly check the address for viability and send a confirm message. Add a privacy policy checkbox and you've established the prenuptial terms of your relationship.
  3. Communication. By using the email address as the login credential, you've established an implicit agreement that you will communicate with that user via email - the most effective way to drive customer traffic without paying for it again from search.
  4. CRM. The email address that your new user - ahem, subscriber partner - has supplied is likely the same address she uses for other purposes - work or personal. That means that you can reach this new partner in other media and custom audience ad exchanges like Facebook and Twitter, since she also relies on the email address as the login credential of choice. And it matches up to third-party databases like Nielsen, Bizo, and LiveRamp much better than a username unique only to a single site.

This advice is especially pertinent to mobile app companies. Now that you don't have UDID to depend on, what could be a better identity for login than an email address? Once an app publisher has collected the email address of its users, it can reach them cross-channel because, despite news to the contrary, many people still use desktop computers.

The benefits don't accrue only for publishers. The user gets a lot of benefit from this approach. There is no string of letters and numbers that can be typed faster than someone can type their email address. I know I can type my email address faster than I can say it. Recovering passwords is much easier when they can be sent to an email address. And even if that address is old, at least you might remember it.

And resist using a "social" login if you can help yourself. Collect that email for yourself first and connect to the social platform next.

Email is history. History that we can all remember. Our personal history is associated with the email address, and it's more durable than a cookie or username. End the username madness and start using the universal unique ID of the Internet, the email address.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


Dave Hendricks

As president of LiveIntent, Dave Hendricks devises corporate strategies and tries to simplify marketing language. Before growing LiveIntent, Dave was executive vice president (EVP) of operations at PulsePoint (then known as Datran Media), where he worked alongside LiveIntent chief executive (CEO) Matt Keiser and ran Datran's ESP StormPost (nka PostUp). A member of the founding executive team at ExperianCheetahMail, Dave began his email adventure at Pioneering ESP MessageMedia. Dave was named one of Business Insider's "Top 100 Technologists" in 2011 and Alley Watch claimed he was one of 15 people "changing advertising" in 2014. He plays electric guitar and you should follow him on Twitter @davehendricks.

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