A Rant about user IDs…

Quick Summary: If you’re ever designing a web-based tool and you decide to use anything other than an email address as your customers’ login ID, then you deserve to be hunted down and ground up into something that will fertilize plants.

I have Photoshop. In fact, I not only have Photoshop, I have a lot of Adobe software. Like a metric butt-load. And every few years for almost the past decade, I have given Adobe money to upgrade to the latest and greatest versions of their tools, or to add even more of their tools onto my computer. 

Adobe has a website. Their website has a section for their customers. To get into said section, you have to log on with your Adobe ID. And herein lies the problem.

Back in the dark ages (the late 1990s,) I created my first Adobe ID. Back then, I guess they figured that this whole Internet thing wasn’t going to take off, because they did not let you use your email address for your Adobe ID. Fine. So my Adobe ID was some j-random word that I would be forever consigned to try and remember.

At least they let me enter my email address into my account, so that when I logged in using my Adobe ID and submitted a bug report / question / whatever, it knew where to email me.

Somewhere else along the line, someone at Adobe figured “Hey, we should let our users register their products over that-there new-fangled Internet thing.” So you had a nice window under the “Help” menu bar that let you register your product online. But of course, said window never asked for your Adobe ID; it asked for your email address. 

Somewhere even later along the line, Adobe resigned themselves to the fact that the Internet was probably here to stay, and allowed you to use your email address as your Adobe ID. 

So, why all this exposition you ask?  Why are you boring us with your guesses about the internal motivations of Adobe’s Internet strategy over the past decade? Well, because, once again it’s pissing me off and making it difficult to get things done.

I recently switched from a PC to a Mac. One of the things that I made sure of before I made the switch was that Adobe had a process that would allow me to transfer all the software I’ve purchased from them onto my new computer.  And they do. 

Doing so requires you to call Adobe customer service. After a few relaxing minutes on hold, listening to a rather short music loop, you are greeted by an Adobe Customer Service person who asks for your name and Customer ID. Yes, not your Adobe ID, your Customer ID.

Remember, your Adobe ID is your email address, unless you’ve been purchasing Adobe software since the days when they didn’t let you use your email address. But that’s not your Customer ID, which is a nine-digit number that is completely inaccessible from the web site. So although you know your Adobe ID, you probably don’t know your Customer ID, because you can’t look it up from the web site. 

It turns out I have two entirely separate Adobe Accounts. Can you guess how they’re set up? 

  • Account 1 Adobe ID: j-random-name-from-1999
  • Account 1 Email: My email Address
  • Account 1 Customer ID: 555-555-555

  • Account 2 Adobe ID: My email Address
  • Account 2 Email: My email Address
  • Account 2 Customer ID: 666-666-666


It turns out that for most of my current software (Adobe CS3 Production Premium,) my purchase shows up in Account #1, and the registration shows up in Account #2. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, because the person I was speaking to works with my Customer Numbers, which I’m not sure which goes with which Adobe ID

All of this confusion could have been avoided by simply using a person’s email address as their ID. I could go on about how I also have an ID for “Adobe Developer Connection” which is unrelated to my Adobe ID(s), or how my Macromedia ID still isn’t linked to my Adobe ID several years after the acquisition.

But all of this is really kind of moot anyways, because once we’d gotten it straightened out that yes, it really was only one person who both bought and registered the software, and that yes, I was that person, I wasn’t able to change over to Mac versions because the software that they had to use to do that wasn’t working today.

Or perhaps the support rep had logged in with the wrong ID…


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