// denisdefreyne.com / notes
Last revised:
May 2021

A “users” table is a smell

One of the first tables that gets created when a new web application is set up, is a “users” table, to contain all the users that can sign in to the web application.

What is a “user” though?

The concept of “user” is vague and conflates credentials and identities. As an alternative, consider having separate credentials and identities tables, and an accounts table to link them together:

The accounts table connects credentials and identities: one account (e.g. my personal account) can have multiple credentials and multiple identities associated with it.

Note that an account does not correspond to a person either. I might have two accounts (a personal one and one for work) with separate sets of credentials and separate identities.

Example

As an example, imagine SoundCloud with separate credentials and identities concepts:

Furthermore, a single SoundCloud profile (a.k.a identity) could have multiple accounts linked to it. Imagine a SoundCloud profile for a band, that all band members can access.