Make email address optional to login to the forum

Is having an email attached to the Forum account necessary?

I got asked this question by a ZH user today, the person also mentioned that this is likely the case for many other ZH users. (Obviously the person is not able to post this themselves, as they don’t have an email attached to their Wiki account; this is why I am asking this question here for them :slight_smile: ) What is your view?


Email is the primary method of identification in Discourse (the software powering this forum) so I doubt there is any way to get around it.

I understand the reason behind this, but it seems to me that it could be a potential deal breaker for some users. :neutral_face: Is there a semi-way one can consider?

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Implementing email-less registration would be really hard on Discourse – see [Paid] Plugin- Allow no email address necessary on registration - marketplace - Discourse Meta (and several other similar requests in Discourse’s support forum.

I assume that the concern for not sharing an email address is privacy? If this is the case, what about creating a single-purpose free email address on a privacy savvy service like Tutanota or ProtonMail? (more alternatives exist, and I’m not a privacy expert)

I have submitted a feature request in the Discourse forum, if only to better understand its feasibility:

I had this in mind, and this piece of feedback on English Wikipedia served as a nudge:

Qgil-WMF you say you are inviting all Movement participants, that the goal is to be inclusive, and that anyone can contribute. However the website denied me access. A substantial percentage of all editors will similarly be denied access. Specifically, the OAUTH process explicitly denies access to any user who has not filled in an email on their Wikimedia account. I would also like to specifically quote Foundation Privacy Policy:

Because we believe that you shouldn’t have to provide personal information to participate in the free knowledge movement, you may:

  • Read, edit, or use any Wikimedia Site without registering an account.
  • Register for an account without providing an email address or real name.

Could you please clarify whether this website is going to be corrected, to allow established community members to participate under the terms of the Foundation Privacy Policy, without requiring an email address or real name? Alsee (talk) 23:37, 20 August 2022 (UTC)

The Movement Strategy Forum operates under the Wikimedia Foundation’s Non-wiki Privacy Policy. (source) Users have to log with their Wikimedia login and they don’t need to provide their real name. Discourse (the software used for the MS Forum) relies on email addresses as user ids. The emails are not shown but the software needs them, and administrators can access them. Any throwaway email address would do. There is a discussion about the requirement for an email address on the forum that contains more details. Qgil-WMF (talk) 23:52, 20 August 2022 (UTC)

After thinking a bit more… Technically it is possible to allow anonymous users to post on a Discourse forum. The setting is disabled by default and there hasn’t been any thought or discussion about enabling this. I understand that this would be different than what you request, @Alsee, but it’s the only other technically feasible solution we have at hand. Or users in your situation create a single-purpose email address on a privacy-friendly service like Tutanota or ProtonMail , which also would solve the problem technically. Qgil-WMF (talk) 23:59, 20 August 2022 (UTC)

Qgil-WMF, Discourse is open source software. It shouldn’t take undue work to enable access for OAUTH-without-email by generating an arbitrary unique string in the email-as-id field. In particular the domain of is defined not to exist. If necessary that could be used as the base for a not-a-valid-email ID value. If Discourse requires email verification, that step would also need to be skipped. Note that somewhere between 20% and 45% of all of our users have no email set on their Wikimedia account, and a majority have no verified email on their Wikimedia account. (I saw those figures posted by the WMF somewhere recently.) This clearly impacts a large number of our users, and many of our users have good reason to be averse to anything that might remotely facilitate surveillance by certain governments. Alsee (talk) 00:38, 21 August 2022 (UTC)

Sure, as maintainers of the MS Forum we have no interest in requiring users to have a verified email address. Having one improves the user experience with email notifications and the periodical digest (that users can tune in their user settings) but we agree that this should be an optional feature, not required. Other people have asked before at the Discourse forum, and the implementation of this feature isn’t trivial according to the Discourse developers. I have asked about the specific setting you are suggesting, @Alsee. Qgil-WMF (talk) 10:10, 21 August 2022 (UTC)

It is very necessary for effective means of communication.

âš“ T150421 Provide a sender email address alias for use in Special:Emailuser (aka 2-way email relay) is the task for providing fake (blackhole) email addresses to all Wikipedia user accounts.

This looks like an overkill for the problem to be solved here, and the history and discussion of that task doesn’t give much hope for quick and consensus-backed reaction. :slight_smile:

@Bawolff says something interesting there:

if we do something like this, I think it would make sense to do foo@wikipedia.invalid so its clearly a non-real email address.

A “support expert” upstream said:

The idea would be that the Wikimedia Login plugin would create these fake email addresses (i.e. qgil-wmf@wikimedia.invalid) when the Wikimedia account has none, so that Discourse is happy.

Is the requirement for a confirmed email address coming only from Discourse or also from Wikimedia’s authentication?