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Summary of abilities given to users with accounts Edit
If you create an account, you can pick a username. Edits you make while logged in will be assigned to that name. That means you get full credit for your contributions in the page history (when not logged in, the edits are just assigned to your IP address). You can also view all your contributions by clicking the "My contributions" link, which is visible only when you are logged in.
You will have your own 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 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 have a permanent user 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 don't need to reveal your offline identity, but having an account gives you a fixed Wikipedia identity that other users will recognize. While we welcome anonymous contributions, logging in lets you build trust and respect through a history of good edits. It's also easier to communicate and collaborate with an editor if we know who you are (at least, who you are on Wikipedia). It is also easier for veteran users to assume good faith from new users who take the effort to create an account. You may well be afforded a great deal less leeway if you do not go to the trouble of making up a username.
Please understand that Wikipedia gets vandalized, spammed, and information gets uploaded by people who just want to advertise. Information sources need to be verified and Wikipedia needs a way to distinguish reliable contributors and sources.
You are actually more anonymous (though more pseudonymous) logged in than you are as an "anonymous" editor, due to the hiding of your IP. You might want to consider various factors, including privacy and the possibility of offline harrassment, when selecting a username.
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.
There are many features of the MediaWiki software (which powers Wikipedia) that are available only to registered users. For example, one of these features is being able to mark edits as minor. Minor edits can be filtered from the list of "Recent changes". Marking edits which are not minor as such is considered very rude, so mark an edit as minor only if it is a small change, such as a grammar correction. Anonymous members don't have the privilege to mark edits as minor because the person behind the IP Address could be anyone, so a basis of trust cannot be built.
One very important feature which active contributors will likely use a lot are
watchlists. You will get a new link "Watch this page" (or a new tab "watch") on every page you view. If you click that link, a page will be added to your watchlist. This list is basically a filtered view of the "Recent changes" page which shows only changes that were recently made to items in your watchlist. This way you can keep track of pages you work on without having to follow all changes.
Only registered users are allowed to create or rename pages, a feature that is very important to maintain structure and consistency on Wikipedia.
Administrators (sometimes known as sysops, short for System Operator) can delete and restore pages, protect them from being edited, edit protected pages, and block users for violation of our policies. They generally carry out the will of the Wiki community on pages such as Wikipedia:Articles for deletion.
Only signed-in users can become administrators. Usually, users can become administrators after working on Wikipedia for a few months without clashing often with other Wikipedians.