When you have a social website or a website where you can register, would you eventually delete them after a certain time (after a year of inactivity) or would you rather keep their account records for ever?

I know websites like Facebook have large amount of inactive, duplicated and fake accounts. So I'm wondering if after two years of inactivity it would be alright to send the account a warning email of deletion unless they log in.

Just thinking of a clean and efficient database management or any implications this may cause to new potential users.

  • Most email providers delete (or at least suspend) users after a period of time (gmail - 9 months). I remember webmasterworld.com (forums) did a massive cull a few years, deleting inactive users and a load of fake accounts in the process - but they gave plenty of notice. – MrWhite Dec 7 '12 at 9:32

With a small server, without much power/space for a large database, I think it's a good idea.

Also if you want to keep a clean and active user database you can do this:

  • warn user about inactivity this XX years/months and tell him that without answer from him in the next weeks, you will remove its account
  • re-warn him a week before the deletion
  • without new login, remove it

By the way, I don't think Facebook will remove any member from its database. As far as I know, they only remove bot/fake accounts. Since they need big number to be competitive they keep inactive ones.

It the same for Twitter. In the past, you add ability to ask Twitter to remove an inactive account (like if your favorite pseudo were taken, they release it, so you can register with your pseudo). But this is not possible anymore.

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  • In a shared hosting environment like GoDaddy I probably should not worry about performance issues correct? – Hovaness Bartamian Dec 7 '12 at 20:25
  • That's correct. – j0k Dec 7 '12 at 22:18

I believe people remove users for mainly 2 reasons: one is performance, and one is because sometimes webmasters like to have only active users.

Performance is not really an issue, unless you have millions of users: the actual space on disk that a user record fills up it's next to nothing (even saving a reasonable amount of data about each user). Also querying few thousands (even hundreds of thousands) records (especially user records) should not be a problem if your database is designed correctly.

In short, it's up to you: if you clean inactive users, your community it's more active (no "wasteland" effect that you might get sometimes on twitter), but you might annoy some users if the time/procedure is not managed well.

I would personally leave all users on DB, and deactivate them with a flag if really needed (unless we are talking about millions of users, and even then I'd probably move them to another table instead of flagging). Their record is a valuable information, and you could get better user experience if they'd come back (can recognise them).

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You can make your users accounts inactive after a certain amount of time, but you should not remove their pages as they are still crawlable by the search engines.

If you remove both their account and their content, you will lose a lot of long tail traffic.

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