Lotsa people know about BugMeNot, the centralized database of usernames and passwords for Web sites that require free registration (such as, alas, many news sites). But have you seen the bookmarklet?
On the BugMeNot home page, click on the link that says "bookmarklet" and drag it to your bookmarks/favorites. From then on, whenever you're at a registration log-in page, just click that bookmark and it will pop-up a window with a username and password for the site that you're currently looking at.
The next step will be browsers that automatically log you in to registration-based sites based on a centralized database of free accounts -- so you don't even *see* the log-in screen. I smell an arms race.
Posted by Matt on June 14, 2004, at 9:18 p.m.:
There's already a bugmenot firebird/mozilla extension that adds a right-click menu to launch the bugmenot window, but it'd be great if it could just automatically populate form fields. Perhaps if bugmenot was an xml service, it'd be much easier to program this.
Posted by Gary Love on June 14, 2004, at 9:33 p.m.:
The problem with sites like BugMeNot is that they can throw a monkey wrench into all roll-up data based on registration info. For instance, if the bugmenot userid has the zip code of 80501, then the Atlanta Journal Constitution all of a sudden is reporting a loyal following in Longmont, Colorado.
In this arms race, it might make more sense to work with your enemy to establish some "rules of war". However, before this can happen, a site must realize that some people will do whatever it takes to get around a registration system. Once a site comes to grips with that fact, then they can begin working on a middle ground.
1. Registration-required sites should work with bugmenot to put in a specific userid/password. They could then hide this particular userid from their stats analysis tools.
2. Most sites already provide a 1-page pass (usually the front page). This pass should extended to work for any single page of the site. So if a weblog or search engine provides a deep link, any reader should be able to view that single page without registering.
3. BugMeNot.com should not provide usernames and passwords for paid services that forbid sharing in their contracts.
Posted by Robin on June 14, 2004, at 11:01 p.m.:
Yeah, the BugMeNot bookmarklet rules.
The way out is for news sites to use registration information better.
And it's not just that the benefits of personalization must equal or outweigh the time-cost of registration; it's that the site should be so cool once you've registered that no one would ever want to use it any other way.
The idea of a BugMeNot for, say, Friendster makes no sense, because the whole point of the site is that it knows who you are.
News sites should be the same way.
This won't change the parameters of the "I want to read this one article at PunxsutawneyNews.com... but I will never visit the site again... voila, BugMeNot!" case -- but who cares? And for those situations, Gary Love's suggestion #2, above, seems like a good one.
Posted by Adrian on June 14, 2004, at 11:51 p.m.:
Robin: Right on! People should print out your comment and put it above their computers.
Posted by Oskar van Rijswijk on June 15, 2004, at 8 p.m.:
Radio Userland once partnered with the NYT to offer RSS feeds that circumvented the registration/login screen of the NYT. This is a good idea: mediasites should offer RSS and/or Atom feeds with summaries of and deeplinks to newsitems - without having to registrate (login). This could be the basic service. Added, more personalized features and information could be offered after registration. The choice is for the user (basic direct access or added features after registration), everybody happy!
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