"Please confirm Headline/Title"
March 3, 2006 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Why do so many web forms ask me to confirm the email address I just typed in?

I can understand asking people to repeat the password they entered, as those are generally starred out and thus that makes sure people typed what they think they typed. But email addresses are rarely (if ever) starred out, so surely you know what you typed? And if it's an anti-bot mechanism - well, it's not a very good one!

I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation - anyone enlighten me?
posted by benzo8 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Surely, but in reality, not at all.

It's easy to blaze through a form and let a type go unnoticed. If the email address acts as the primary mechanism used for resetting a password or logging into the account, or if sensitive information might be sent to said email address, it's critical to have the user get it right the first time.

(Even a verification link could be thwarted, if you were one digit off, say.)

You don't want your username and password being sent to a different person, do you?

It's definitely not an anti-bot mechanism. For those, most web folks use CAPTCHAs.
posted by disillusioned at 6:21 AM on March 3, 2006

I've always assumed that they did this in case the email address is mis-typed. In my experience, email confirmation forms usually seem to occur when you're applying for an account, asking for your password to be sent to your email address, or doing something else where it is important that the email address is correct.
posted by ubersturm at 6:23 AM on March 3, 2006

I won't even comment on the irony of mistyping "typo." Except that I will.
posted by disillusioned at 6:26 AM on March 3, 2006

I'd imagine it comes from thousands of emails sites get each month about "I never got my confirmation emaaail". Just because someone can see they mistyped their email doesn't mean the goober will have enough sense to recognize it. Probably cuts down on pointless feedback noise.
posted by ZackTM at 6:26 AM on March 3, 2006

We do it on our "Ask a Librarian" form because it's very frustrating to work on a reference question for half an hour only to have the response bounce back because of a bad e-mail address.
posted by arco at 6:44 AM on March 3, 2006

Unfortunately, a surprisingly large minority of site users really do have a problem with typing their email address reliably correctly the first time. On a site like Metafilter, the demographic is skewed towards net-capable, confident and literate typists and this practice might seem somewhat redundant to members of such a group. On a popular commercial site however, there may be a larger proportion of users or members who are less capable of first-try accuracy. A small extra effort from users can save a lot of grief for administrators later because the easiest way to uniquely identify an individual member or customer is usually by their email address.
posted by normy at 7:05 AM on March 3, 2006

Yeah, loads of people mistype their email address, it can be a significant support burden (although nowadays often dwarfed by problems from spam filters blocking confirmation emails).
posted by malevolent at 7:50 AM on March 3, 2006

I have a common name and I stupidly use variations of my name as my email addresses. ALL THE TIME, I get email from legitimate businesses (not spam) where people have signed up for things like bill pay or cell phone service because THEY CAN'T TYPE THEIR OWN EMAIL CORRECTLY.
Drives me INSANE.
Of course, I can't change it because when I request a password, I need their first pet's name or the name of their high school or some garbage.
Anyway, what everyone else said -- to prevent typos.
posted by j at 7:59 AM on March 3, 2006

I can see the value of it in terms of reducing mis-typing an address, but I wonder how many people are like me - I'll cut and paste my address instead of typing it out again, which kind of defeats the purpose.
posted by flipper at 8:08 AM on March 3, 2006

It's more than just typos, actually - you wouldn't believe the number of people who type .com when they really should have put .net and so on.

It's really frustrating not to be able to get back to someone who's sent in a support question because they haven't provided the correct contact information. You know it's their fault for not typing correctly, but they're going to think you just don't care or are ignoring them.

Flipper - if you're savvy enough to know to use copy and paste to save a few keystrokes, you're generally not the type to get your email wrong in the first place.
posted by Zinger at 8:30 AM on March 3, 2006

OK. So it is a sanity check and yes, I can see that if I assume most of the 'Net are idiots then it's probably a worthwhile one - I've just always found it peculiar, and, in fact, have perfected the absent-minded shift-home, tab, ctrl-v method of completing the second box such that I now completely avoid the object of the exercise!
posted by benzo8 at 8:55 AM on March 3, 2006

Some forms use JavaScript to prevent pasting into the second form field. THAT is annoying.
posted by GuyZero at 10:04 AM on March 3, 2006

It's one more thing other than a sanity check: it's also a sure-fire way to know that someone put a BS email address into a form on purpose.

Consider: let's say I just ask for the email once, and two people visit my site. One isn't really serious, and puts a made-up email address into the form; the other is serious, but mistypes their email and so enters an invalid one. In both cases, email to that user bounces. Is this a legitimate user (who might contact me at some point to say "hey, how come I don't get emails?") or a BS user who I'll never hear from? No way to know.

Now, consider: I ask for two email address entries. The person entering a BS mail on purpose enters the invalid address twice, identically; the person who is serious mistypes it once, but likely not twice in the same way. We catch the error, and they fix the typo. Voila! Now there's a 99% certainty that any invalid email addresses in the database were put in by users who purposefully put in BS addresses (the other 1% is people who, deliberately and methodically screwed up their email address identically twice -- very rare.)

This may not seem like a big gain, but believe me: if you have 40,000 customer records, and 7% of them have invalid email addresses, it's really nice to be able to tell the big boss "we know almost certainly that these customers entered BS email addresses on purpose, and so they don't want to hear from us and can be safely deleted from the system."
posted by davejay at 4:02 PM on March 3, 2006

Why are Mefi users still filling web forms? I haven't filled out a form for 5 years. Download the free version of Roboform and you will never have to type in your email address ever again, much less twice. No spyware or adware, just a relatively high limit on number of passcards, etc. before you need to upgrade to the Pro Version. It will take 10-20 minutes to read the manual to learn how to use it, but it's worth it in time and frustration you will save.

If you need to eventually upgrade to their Pro Version (I did after 4 years), it's $30, but do a search on Google for a Roboform coupon code, which will give you $10 off. Right now the coupon code is "SNC".

No affiliation, just love the software.
posted by Sorcia at 10:54 AM on March 4, 2006

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