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Webauthn – Emails vs Username

Conventional vs passwordless

The topic of this text is sort of obscure but basic. It’s associated to the webauthn protocol. Since an image is value a thousand phrases:

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You possibly can learn extra about it within the different articles of this collection. Principally, webauthn shops cryptographic secrets and techniques on the gadget, protected by biometric/PIN, that’s later used for login.

That is basically totally different than how individuals historically register and login. Not solely is it passwordless and safer, additionally it is gadget sure for the reason that secret keys are saved on the gadget and never accessible.

Due to that, webauthn-based authentication would require yet another motion in comparison with the normal login/register actions, particularly add gadget. It’s essential “add” your different gadgets to your account first, in order for you to have the ability to login with them too. So even the login display screen may find yourself totally different, for instance like this:

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This may also affect the upcoming dialogue.

E mail vs Username

In most authentication methods, there’s a primary alternative relating to whether or not a username or an e-mail must be used to determine a person.

There are a number of implication of both alternative, particularly together with the webauthn protocol.

The advantages of usernames

Earlier than going by the issues of selecting usernames because the main identifier, allow us to have a look at the advantages.

  • it is nameless. Some customers may be inclined to not share their e-mail for numerous causes.
  • customers might be immediately registered, with a single “contact”, with out password nor affirmation e-mail.
  • there isn’t any want for an e-mail (in contrast to conventional methods with “forgot password”)
  • it is barely shorter to kind


When registering an e-mail, it is yours, it is distinctive. With usernames, there may be the danger of getting a message like “oh no, this username is already taken!”.

That is completely innocent for conventional authentication. Nevertheless, in case of webauthn, which is gadget sure, there isn’t any solution to distinguish between the next:

  • a person by chance selecting an already taken username
  • a person wanting so as to add a brand new gadget to its present account

UX sensible, it may be useful to regulate the UI relying on whether or not the username has been taken or not.

  • Username exists: Login / Add Machine
  • Username is new: Register

Nevertheless, this is able to seemingly lead to confused customers. Particularly so since “Add Machine” is an unknown idea for them.


When you register with a username solely, you don’t have any “restoration possibility” set but. A restoration plan is critical should you unfastened your gadget. Keep in mind, there are not any passwords, solely a secret saved on the gadget. In case you register with an e-mail, this e-mail might already implicitly be used to ship add gadget / restoration hyperlinks.

In any other case, you would need to explicitly select your restoration possibility, which may be safer indirectly. For instance:

  • telephone quantity
  • safety query/reply
  • register one other gadget proper now
  • print QR code
  • none (hazard: gadget loss == account loss)

… Or utilizing an e-mail handle, the most typical means. 😉

Can we even want a username / e-mail?

Growth. No. Really we do not. What about registering with out something?! Yeah, that is proper. That is potential since this entire protocol is principally gadget sure. Your account wouldn’t want a username/e-mail, it will some unseen random identifier, linked to all of your gadgets. Learn how to hyperlink a tool? Effectively, principally the identical as restoration choices: per QR code, SMS, momentary code to kind, e-mail…

Nevertheless, there’s a disadvantage too: it sounds alien for customers to not have an identifier. This shouldn’t be taken frivolously. The second disadvantage is investigating help points in case somebody has a problem with its account. So we’re again to sq. one. 😉

What a few single button “register”?

Principally, if the e-mail is the identifier, the login/registration/add-device situations aren’t that totally different.

Really, a single “register / register” button may suffice.

If the account doe not exist, an e-mail shall be despatched for registration.

If the gadget is unknown, an e-mail shall be despatched so as to add the gadget.

If the gadget is thought, login proceeds.

Why had been there separate buttons within the first place? Effectively, in conventional authentication methods, there are a number of small causes. Typing a brilliant advanced password accurately for instance. Nevertheless, in a passwordless protocol, each “interfaces” for login and registration can principally be lowered to the identical: the e-mail. On this context, a single button makes way more sense.

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