Summary of benefits
Username and privacy
If you create an account, you can pick a user name provided it is available and unique. Edits you make while logged in will be assigned to that name, not to your IP address. You will have your own permanent user page where you can write a bit about yourself. While Wikipedia is not a homepage provider, you can use this to display a few free pictures, write about your hobbies, etc. Many users use their user page to maintain a list of the articles they are most proud of, or to collect other valuable information from Wikipedia.
You will also have a permanent talk page you can use to communicate with other users. You will be notified whenever someone writes a message on your talk page. If you choose to give an e-mail address, other users will be able to contact you by e-mail. This feature is anonymous; the user who emails you will not know your e-mail address.
You are actually less identifiable logged in than you are as an unregistered editor, owing to the hiding of your IP address (so long as you avoid disclosing identifiable information on your user page). You might want to consider privacy and the possibility of offline harassment, when deciding what to say on your user page.
Reputation, communication, and more successful edits
Having an account gives you a fixed Wikipedia identity that other users will recognize. While we welcome contributions from unregistered editors, logging in under a user name lets you build trust and respect through a history of good edits, and makes it easier for veteran users to assume good faith, communicate and collaborate. Having a good name (or a pseudonym to protect your identity) promotes more responsible editing, and more civil discourse.
Sometimes new or unregistered users are prevented from editing pages that are common targets of vandalism (just as this page is protected, and only users with an account can edit it). Also, bots can mistake even good-faith IP address edits for vandalism. For these reasons, edits under a user name tend to be more successful.
Your user name may also receive recognition for good work such as Barnstars, Project Awards, Personal User Awards, or nomination for voted accolades like Editor of the Week. You need a fixed account identity to accumulate these pats on the back; they are not awarded to IP addresses.
As your reputation builds, it is possible to earn privileges such as rollback, sysop/administrator, and others. It is not possible for an unregistered editor to be granted these privileges.
As a registered user, you can customize the way pages are displayed by altering your preferences. There, in the Appearance tab, you can change the following display settings:
- Under Skin: various options as to the appearance of the website
- Under Math: how mathematical formulas are displayed
- Under Files: how large image thumbnails should be
And various editing preferences:
- How your username signature appears on talk pages
- How pages should be displayed in recent changes
- and many others