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Log in vs. log on

In nontechnical web parlance, log on often means to visit (especially a website), and log in means to sign in with a username and password. For example, we could say you logged on to this website simply by visiting this page, but you won’t be logging in because nothing on this site requires a username and password.

These are not technical terms when used in these senses, and technologically literate people (along with careful writers) might scoff especially at this use of log on. Notwithstanding that, it is common.

Examples

Log on

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To learn more about some of these measures, log on to the website. [Houston Chronicle]

Log on to Samsung’s site and it’s blaring out “it’s time for a better tablet”. [Independent]

Then make sure you log on to theage.com.au tonight at 7pm for Real Footy Live, our new AFL finals show. [The Age]

Log in

The password came, but I was still unable to log in. [Guardian]

On your iPhone, you toggle on PhotoStream and log in with your Apple ID. [Wired]

Many Facebook users logged in this morning and found a strange, new social-networking world. [USA Today]

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Comments

  1. Do you favor ‘log in to’ or ‘log into’? For instance, ‘The user should log into the website.’

  2. InkStained says:

    Love this site, but as a tech journalist of nearly 30 years, I completely disagree — I wouldn’t have come up with this in a million years. Maybe it’s a British/American thing?

    • This is one of the many cases where we describe a usage pattern without saying it’s good or bad or endorsing it in any way. Personally, we find “log on” for “visit a website” not very logical at all, and we don’t use it ourselves, but it is certainly common, which is all we are saying with this post. As you can see above, we have examples of “log on” used this way in one American, one British, and one Australian publication, and more examples along these lines are easily found in Google news searches, so it seems a global thing.

  3. As a computer geek of more than 40 years’ standing: log in and log on are both nautical metaphors. When you come on duty, you log on board by making an entry in the log book. In the computer business, log on was the standard IBM usage in the 1960s, while log in was used in the Univac and later VAX community. Sign [in/out] [off/on] are also used; all forms are equivalent.The main thing is to be consistent, and to follow the usage of the forum, site or whatever you are connecting to. The nouns are login, logout, logon, logoff, signin, signout, signon and signoff. You log/sign in to or on to a site, not into or onto, since you log out of or off from (please, not off of) the site and there is no such word as offrom or outof. Also when using the noun, you would refer to your logon to, logoff from, login to, logoff from etc.

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