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I'll give an example of one that I've noticed: the number of web sites that ask for your email address (GOOG ID, YAHOO! ID, etc.) has skyrocketed.

I can come up with no legitimate reason for this other than (1) password reset [other ways to do this], or (2) to remind you that you have an account there, based upon the time of your last visit.

Why does a web site need to know your email address (Google ID, etc.) if all you want to do is...

  • download a file (no legit reason whatsoever)
  • play a game (no legit reason whatsoever)
  • take an IQ test or search a database (no legit reason whatsoever)
  • watch a video or view a picture (no legit reason whatsoever)
  • read a forum (no legit reason whatsoever)
  • post on a forum (mildly legit reason: password reset)
  • newsletter (only difference between a newsletter and a blog is that you're more likely to forget about the web site than you are to forget about your email address -- the majority of web sites do not send out newsletters, however, so this can't be the justification)
  • post twitter messages or other instant messaging (mildly legit reason: password reset)
  • buy something (mildly legit reasons: password reset + giving you a copy of a receipt that they can't delete, as receipts stored on their server can be deleted)

On the other hand, I can think of plenty of very shady reasons for asking for this information:

  1. so the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. can very easily track what you do by reading your email or asking GOOG, etc. what sites you used your GOOG ID at
  2. to use the password that you provide for your account in order to get into your email account (most people use the same password for all of their accounts), find all of your other accounts in your inbox, and then get into all of those accounts
  3. sell your email address to spammers

These reasons, I believe, are why you are constantly asked to provide your email address. I can come up with no other explanations whatsoever.

Question 1: Can anyone think of any legitimate or illegitimate reasons for asking for someone's email address?

Question 2: What are some other interesting internet trends of the past ~10 years?

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closed as off topic by John Conde Mar 3 '11 at 12:44

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very shady reasons for asking for this information Reason 4: Web developer incompetence (Tweedledee: "I feel like we should verify e-mails for stuff" Tweedledum: "Yeah, that's a good idea. So then they can't, like, request a lot of pictures or whatever. Hey, do you know what rate limiting is? Or firewalls?" Tweedledee: "No idea. Let's verify those e-mails!"). There's a lot of incompetence in software. cough every InfoSys employee, for example cough. –  Parthian Shot Jul 29 at 16:45

3 Answers 3

Not sure its an interesting trend, but the "share" buttons at the bottom of almost every website....

"Share with facebook, twitter, reddit, digg, linkedin" I wonder what the record number is?

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There's sometimes more share buttons than content! Anyway, it's great for the likes of Facebook because they get to cookie the whole Internet and track what everyone's doing. That data's worth a lot... I actually removed the "Add-to-Any" widget from my site when it appeared the plugin was sending of even more tracking pixels. I don't mind things like Quantcast where I know I've opted in but it's a bit different when you just happen to notice the headers being sent off. –  Ewan Heming Mar 3 '11 at 19:25
  1. It's pretty standard to try and get visitors onto a mailing list to keep in contact with them in the hope of making future sales etc. It's not necessarily SPAM if you've clearly opted into it and can easily opt-out. However, it's quite hard to trust most sites not to sell an email address unless they're a well known brand.
  2. Instead of just being 'good' at their job, many people with Internet related careers are usually self-proclaimed 'Gurus', 'Globally Recognised Experts', 'Thought Leaders' or more recently 'Rock Stars'. In reality these titles carry very little weight given how easy it is to promote yourself online by writing trash blog posts. It's often hard to see the wood-for-the-trees and I usually just go back to the world of printed literature in order to gain knowledge from the real 'experts' who have the staying power to write a book and the reputation to get it published.
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When it comes to web sites that send out newsletters or "keep in touch" emails (we'll call them KITEs), I don't want half of them. Even if I did want to receive a newsletter/KITE, why not ask me if I want to receive it? I've given my email addresses to perhaps 300 web sites over the years, but I only receive about three newsletters/KITEs and have only unsubscribed to two others. Newsletters/KITEs CANNOT be the justification for the other 295 web sites that never even attempted to send me one. –  Michael Mar 3 '11 at 8:37
    
As @Tom Gullen mentions, another reason that emails are needed are for confirming account creation. It's annoying but a necessary evil when hordes of hackers are using bots to try and get accounts in case they can link-spam your site as a registered user. –  Ewan Heming Mar 3 '11 at 19:29

It's only fairly recently sites now ask you to 'confirm your email address'. This is ridiculously annoying for 99.999% of users who can see what they are typing.

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