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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why Do Websites Make You Log In So Much?

You’ve probably noticed that websites make you log in over and over, especially on your smartphone. This problem is particularly noticeable when viewing newspaper websites where you need an account to view the articles. Here’s why.

In-App Browsers Don’t Share Logins

On your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone, this problem is often caused by in-app browsers. Basically, each application with a built-in browser has its own cookies and its own login state.

In other words, if you tap a link in the Facebook app, open a Washington Post article, and sign into your account to read it, you’re now only logged into the Washington Post website in the Facebook app

If you open the Twitter app or the main Safari browser, you’ll have to sign into the Washington Post website separately in each. Each app has its own separate browser with its own login state, and it’s very annoying. You could tap the “Open in Safari” button to open the page in Safari and avoid viewing it inside those in-app browsers, but that’s an extra step.

This same problem applies to many other news websites, from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times. It’s a problem anywhere you have to sign in to view something.

On iPhone and iPad, this is a fairly recent change. Apple’s iOS 9 and iOS 10 shared cookies between the Safari browser and embedded web views in apps, but Apple halted this with iOS 11 and logins are now separate. So, if you’re an iPhone user, you didn’t have to deal with this problem from September 2015 to September 2017, but you’ve had to log in much more since September 2017.

Android works similarly. Those in-app browsers, also known as web views, don’t share cookies with Chrome. You’ll have to sign in over and over in different Android apps, too.

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