Marc A. Pelletier wrote:
But there is also a great heap of anecdotal data that
shows that having
to provide an email account increases the barrier of entry to users
signing up. So, there's a tradeoff.
Eh, I think the anecdotal data (such as Facebook's and Google's hundreds
of millions account registrations) suggests that e-mail confirmation is
not a huge barrier to entry for legitimate users.
Spambots (of which there are multitude, and that hammer
site constantly) have gotten pretty good at bypassing captchas but have
yet to respond properly to email loops (and that's a more complicated
obstacle than first appears; throwaway accounts are cheap but any
process that requires a delay - however small - means that spambot must
now maintain state and interact rather than fire-and-forget).
Hmmm, I imagine many spambots have already made this investment if they're
dealing with popular systems that require e-mail address confirmation.
Wikimedia is different. You shouldn't even need an account to edit, much
less an e-mail address. But this is a philosophical and principle-based
(principled, if you will!) decision, not really a user experience or
technical decision, in my opinion.
I think calling this issue a sacred cow is a bit overblown, but requiring
an e-mail address would be a violation of our shared values. We strive to
be as open and independent as possible and requiring an e-mail address is
antithetical to that. If anything, we could provide e-mail address aliases
(e.g., mzmcbride(a)en.wikipedia.org) for our users as a side benefit.