Anonymity means being without a name, or doing or saying things without having a name attached to it.
An example of anonymity is edits to this wiki made by users who are not signed in, and are only identified by their IP addresses. Another example is comments on blogs or forums made without any name, such as the Anonymous Coward posts on Slashdot and other Slashcode-based sites. It is often difficult to tell whether any one given anonymous contribution is made by the same physical person as another anonymous contribution, especially in the case of an IP address being assigned to multiple people (especially in the case of a large organization, a proxy, or an internet service provider/mobile provider pool), or a single person making contributions from multiple IP addresses (from multiple assigned IPs at home over time, from work, through proxies, on mobile devices or from public internet access points).
Compare Pseudonymity, which means using a name different from that which you usually use, such as when using a nickname or online username.
Legal protection for anonymity varies by jurisdiction. In the United States, the right of anonymous commenters to be free from undue attempts by civil authorities to determine their identity is protected, however, so is the right for private actors to publish their identity. In other jurisdictions anonymity is less protected.
- Anonymity can be important for women online, to protect against Online harrassment and other problems. Women are often advised to be anonymous or pseudonymous online, and not divulge their real names, in order to protect themselves.
- However, anonymity can also be a shield for people who are attacking others, making abusive comments, and the like.
Myths about anonymity
That it is the same as pseudonymity
It's not. See Pseudonymity.
That civil discourse is impossible if anonymity is permitted
Many counter-examples exist to the contrary.