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This is Wikipedia. You do not have to log in to edit, and almost anyone can edit almost any article at any given time. But be aware that the source of an edit is always publicly displayed; making edits with an artificially named Wikipedia account means your account's name will be linked to every edit. That means less freedom and less transparency. By contrast, an IP address allows editors more freedom to edit (and more protection from wikidrama). Wherever you are, whatever your device, if you make edits using your IP address, your transparency will be total: only the IP address you used will ever be displayed to anyone, even CheckUsers.
Not creating an account is quicker, more completely free in resource costs, and more entirely non-intrusive, than creating an account. It is easier to join the community and share what you know, and especially easier to get more incisive feedback from registered editors. Each of us volunteers in different ways. Some Wikipedians make it a hobby, and others just like to have their IP addresses ready for those times when they notice possible improvements.
Wikipedians can focus on content (e.g., we have volunteer journalists, editors, commentators), systems maintenance (e.g., anti-vandals, software developers), and much more (e.g., artists providing images through our Wikimedia Commons project, creators of guides to welcome and support new editors, projects in your local community, and much more (e.g., and much more)).
As a general rule, unregistered users can do most things that registered users can. As current policy stands, unregistered users have the same rights as registered users to participate in the writing of Wikipedia. Unregistered users may edit articles, participate in talk page discussions, contribute to policy proposals and do some things that a registered user can do. There are, however, some specific actions where unregistered users require the assistance of registered users: as will be seen, this works out more for the protection of the unregistered user than for anyone else.
Policy and guidelines affect all users, registered and unregistered, equally. Unregistered users may create talk pages in any talk namespace, including creation and submission of properly tagged userspace drafts, allowing sufficient process for all content creation needs: you can collaborate, share information about yourself, or just practice editing and publishing.
You do not need to reveal your offline identity, but having a static IP, or a recognizable dynamic IP range, gives you a fixed Wikipedia identity that other users will take pains to recognize. You will have a static or dynamic user talk page you can use to communicate with other users. You will be notified whenever someone writes a message on your talk page. From there, you can also view a convenient list of all your contributions from your IP, and you can use the "top" marker within the contributions to monitor changes made to pages that interest you. You will get full credit for your contributions in the page history, which are assigned to your IP address. All users may send emails to other users who have openly disclosed their email addresses. All users may also query the site API in 500-record batches.
Unregistered users are able to fully participate in deletion discussions, and have been since 2005. On the few occasions when decisions on Wikipedia are decided by democracy (e.g., request for adminship, elections to the arbitration committee) unregistered users may participate fully in the discussions without voting. (Rather than being evidence of the untrustworthiness of unregistered users, this is in fact because of the untrustworthiness of registered users. If unregistered users were allowed to vote, disreputable registered users could log out of their accounts to vote twice.)
Registered users are often called "accounts". But in fact, because their IP addresses are hidden, you, the IP editor, are more "account"able! The only difference between you and registered contributors is that they are hiding behind usernames. But, unlike account-based editors, while you are unregistered:
For a little bit more detail, read on. Or, beat account applicants to the punch and start editing a random article before they can say their passwords twice: be a raindrop in the ocean and contribute to the Wikipedia Project the way that you want to!
If you create an account, you can only pick a username if it is available and unique. All edits you make while logged in will be assigned to that name. For the sake of "privacy", this creates an opaque barrier (a persona or mask) between the editor and the edits. Edits logged to an IP are disarmingly transparent and no IP edit can ever be accused of hiding an identity. In fact, IP editing not only edits without an artificial mask, it also tends to lead those editors who contribute toward a systemic anti-IP bias to drop their masks as well, treating IP edits more ruthlessly (and thus more honestly) than others.
You actually remove your identifiability logged in, rather than when you are as an unregistered editor, owing to the hiding of your IP address. Various factors, including privacy and the possibility of offline harassment, affect selecting a username, and a misselected username that can be linked to a personal identity can never be retracted, while an IP address can never be linked to any more data than is publicly available at the time of the edit.
Wikipedia welcomes contributions from unregistered editors. Editing under a static IP lets you build trust and respect through a history of good edits. Editing under a dynamic IP can also build reputation if a single IP talk page (e.g., the first IP used) becomes a repository for linking histories of other IPs used. When you share an IP with other Wikipedia edits you did not make, clearly distinguishing your own edits and disclaiming (or even reverting) problematic edits from others is a useful good-faith measure. Adding a link to the history repository, from other IP pages in a dynamic range and from your talk comments, is very helpful.
It is easier to communicate and collaborate with an editor if we know who you are on Wikipedia. It is easier for veteran users to assume good faith from new users who take the effort to distinguish their edits and link their histories (and you may well become a veteran IP user yourself some day!). You may well be afforded a great deal less leeway if you do not go to the trouble of making these distinctions, but you will likely receive more leeway than a sockpuppeteer: linking multiple named accounts is a moral responsibility, but (because of their variability) linking multiple IPs is only a best-efforts recommendation.
As your reputation builds, it is possible to earn privileges such as deference to your opinion and closer attention to your edit requests. It is not possible for a registered editor to make similar edit requests to semi-protected articles without an investigation of motives, because the registered editor has already asked for the responsibility to make the edit directly without ratification by others.
If you log in, all your edits are publicly associated with your account name, and are internally associated with your IP address. See Wikipedia's "privacy" policy for more information on this practice. The privacy implications of this vary, depending on the nature of your Internet Service Provider, local laws and regulations, and the nature and quantity of your edits to Wikipedia. Be aware that Wikipedia technologies and policies may change. If you are not logged in, all your edits are, much more transparently, publicly associated with your IP address at the time of that edit.
Shared IP addresses such as school and enterprise networks or proxy servers are frequently blocked for vandalism which, unfortunately, may also affect innocent editors on the same network. However, unregistered users in good standing can request existing blocks on their IP address be removed so that they can continue contributing to Wikipedia. If you are currently blocked from creating an account, we suggest you do one of the following: