I remember, years ago, having arguments with developers over the use of user-facing names as unique IDs. The issue was that once the name, be it for a person, category, or document, was associated with the thing in the database, it couldn’t be changed. Eventually, I won that battle. Any name that a user gives to something should be changeable. The unique ID can be something hidden behind the curtain. I never need to have that argument these days.
Apple, unfortunately, has somehow painted themselves into a corner with their move from .Mac to MobileMe and now to iCloud. I have an @mac email address that I currently use as my main, personal address. With the advent of MobileMe, Apple kept the @mac addresses, but tied them to the new @me addresses, so at that point, I had two email addresses that both pointed to the same account. Then, they did the same thing with the introduction of iCloud. Now I have three email addresses that are all considered to be exactly the same.
But let’s go back a little farther. When I started working for my company, I only had the email address they provided me. I used that email address for everything: every account, every purchase. It has been my primary email address for 13 years. Due to company policies resulting from our merger, I’m no longer able to access that email address outside of my office, so I’m going through the pain of converting 13 years worth of internet use over to my Apple account.
With that background in place, I can now come to my point. There are a lot of websites and services that use your email address as your ID. When you sign in, you don’t use a name—you use your email address. This works well for them because the email address has to be unique and can be easily verified. This isn’t a problem as long as you can change your ID.
Apple has a problem, and I just ran up against it. My Apple ID has been, until yesterday, my business email address. All of my iTunes and App Store purchases have been made with it. At some point in the whole MobileMe transition, I ended up with a second Apple ID using my .Mac/MobileMe/iCloud account. I wanted to switch my Apple ID from my business address to my @mac address, but it can’t be done. First, I can’t change it to that address because an account already exists on that address. Second, I can’t change the account on the @mac address, because they won’t let me. According to the support representative I talked to, whatever they did to combine all of those accounts made it impossible to change my Apple ID/primary email address. That is a severely short-sighted implementation. My only option was to switch my Apple ID on the first account to a third email address that I haven’t used for anything else in the past.
This is a rule: Any piece of information that a user enters for account identification or for an account profile should be editable at any time by that user.