The Supreme Badness of Silent Username Truncation

By Deane Barker on March 8, 2005

Here’s something that has happened to me twice now that just drives me nuts — silent truncation of usernames.

Two times now, I’ve created an account on a system and that system has taken the desired username I entered, chopped off the last few digits to fit it into their database field, and not told me about it. The account gets created, and I think that it was created under the username I entered. Little do I know that “deane_barker” has quietly become “deane_ba.”

Since you often get logged in automatically after creating an account, I get in the first time and think everything is peachy. But the next time, I try to login and keep getting “Invalid Username.”

Why do people do this? I thought it was just a problem with an amateur developer the first time, but the second time was with one of the biggest companies on the Web. This is astonishingly bad usability.



  1. Ridiculous. I have never enounctered something like this myself, but I must agree with you: astonishingly bad usability. Did the registration form mention a maximum amount of characters? If so, bad input checking. If not, that’s even worse.

  2. my webhost is guilty of the same thing. Although instead of just chopping it off at 8 characters, I have one username that they assigned me and based on what service I’m using (ssh vs ftp vs control panel login) I use either 8 or 10 characters.

  3. I set up a hardware RAID a few years ago that required an 8 character password — no more, no less — to get into the admin interface, but the documentation failed to mentioned that. I plugged in a six character password, and it happily plunked in two extra characters at the end of my password. When I couldn’t get back in later on I got their tech support on the line; the guy I talked with didn’t even know about the 8 character requirement.

    That was fixed on the next firmware release.

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