The words "I wish I could quit you" take on a whole new meaning when you want out of a relationship with an Internet service. Sure, you once thought you and Facebook or Amazon or Netflix would be together forever, but terms of service can change, end-user license agreements mature, and, well, you're just not in the same place any more.
Sadly, not all websites, social networks and online retailers are created equal when it comes to breaking up. With some, it takes only a couple of clicks to say goodbye. For a few sites, if you stop paying for the service, the site cuts ties fairly quickly.
Others make you jump through more hoops than a tiger at the circus. Even after you follow all of the required steps, some of these sites never quite leave you alone, with vestiges of your relationship around forever.
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No matter what you call it — deleting, cancelling, removing — when you want to be rid of an online account, many sites don't make it easy. You don't want to rush into a break-up, but if you're ready, we've compiled the links and tips you need to sever all ties. (And let's be clear, there's a difference between deleting an account and just deactivating it — more on this later).
This list includes the big-name sites most people use. If you're looking for a site that's not on our list, check out AccountKiller.com, JustDelete.me, and DeleteYourAccount.com. All three sites serve the same purpose — to let you know what sites and services make it easy to leave, which make it difficult, and which make it impossible.
Did we miss a service you want to ditch? Let us know in the comments section. And if you've managed to quit a service not in this story, be kind and share your tips.
Social networks and online services
Feeling anti-social? Here's how to dump Facebook, Twitter, and many others...
The mac-daddy of social networking, Facebook has approximately 1.19 billion monthly active users, so it probably doesn't miss the very few who decide to delete or deactivate accounts. But before you give Zuckerberg and pals the old heave-ho, bear in mind that Facebook has become an almost-de-facto login option for many, many online services, retailers, and media outlets. Some even require you to use Facebook. So killing a Facebook account could lock you out of more than just one social network. Pretty crafty, huh?
If you're ready to cut ties, the link to deactivate is in your account settings, under Privacy, but here's a direct link to use while logged in. Facebook will try to convince you to stay by showing you photos of the friends who will presumably miss your online presence. But if you forge ahead, Facebook will ask you to specify why you're leaving, whether you'll opt-out of future emails, agree to delete any apps or pages you've developed, and then you can hit confirm.
The move effectively puts your account to sleep. Facebook will leave you alone, but there's the option to reactivate. To fully delete an account, go to the Delete My Account page. Just be aware that, per the Facebook data use policy: "After you remove information from your profile or delete your account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent it has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed pursuant to your privacy settings, or it was copied or stored by other users."
Translation: If you wrote a comment on a friend's status update or photo, it will remain even after you delete your own profile.
Your tweets, on the other hand, are a breeze to obliterate. Visit Twitter's Is this goodbye? page from a desktop web browser (you can't do it via mobile) and you can deactivate your account. After 30 days — the grace period for you to return —t he account and data is deleted.
It could be argued that LinkedIn is the most useful social network around, especially for job networking. That doesn't mean you won't want to cancel. In fact, LinkedIn specifically suggests that if you have multiple accounts, you should close one to consolidate.
To close an account, log in via a desktop browser and click the thumbnail pic in the upper right to access Account & Settings, then choose Privacy & Settings from the menu. Click the Accounts tab, and look for a link called "Close Your Account." Give a reason you're leaving — most sites want to know what they can improve, or did wrong — and then click Continue.
You have time to reinstate your account, if you regret the deletion. Contact Customer Service and confirm your email address to do so. LinkedIn provides a link to contact them on the bottom of every page.
Google is big. Huge, in fact. The company has so many services — office suite via Google Drive, email via Gmail, picture sharing via Picasa, blogging with Blogger, apps and media via the Google Play store, advertising via AdSense, and video sharing via YouTube.
Deleting all of them in one fell swoop is actually quite easy when you visit the Delete Google Account link. That's all it takes to walk away entirely (and lose all those files, emails, videos, etc). You get a small grace period to reinstate the account from the Google password assistance page, but the window is not long.
Unfortunately, this is the only way to get rid of some accounts within Google. There's no way to completely delete a Blogger account (only individual blogs under it) without doing this, for example. YouTube is even more complicated, depending on if you associated your YouTube with your Google account.
Your Microsoft account has previously gone by other names, such as Windows Live ID, MSN log-in, .NET Passport, and so forth. Sticking with branding is not a strong suit at Redmond.
The Microsoft account is now a single sign in to everything Microsoft-y, from Outlook.com to Skype to Xbox Live to Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions.
How you access your account depends on what site you enter, but there's a centralised sign-in page for account access. Here's where you would set up account aliases, change security info, and, best of all, click the "Close account" link at the bottom. Microsoft promise that it "deletes all the data associated" if you do so.
It won't be that simple for most people, however. You can't delete until you've cancelled any premium (paid) services or subscriptions you have with Microsoft Commerce while logged in.
When you delete your Yahoo account, you're signing out permanently from a number of services: Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo Groups, Flickr, etc. Before you do so, be sure to shut off your premium services, if any, via Yahoo Wallet.
There is a magic page for deleting a user account, which will spell out what your Yahoo ID deletion does, and that it may take up to 90 days for full deletion to go through.
Note again, killing your Yahoo account kills your Flickr account. But you can delete Flickr separately and leave Yahoo intact by visiting Flickr's Profile Deletion page.
Yahoo bought Tumblr, but the blog site is still separate enough to have its own login. You can delete your blog (or blogs) without killing the account, of course, using the Account Manager. Killing your entire Tumblr account is done at the account deletion page.
Reddit users have it easy when it comes to account deletion, which makes sense for such a tech-savvy location. Just surf to Preferences>Deletion while signed in to take care of it.
Evernote is an easy-to-use repository for anything and everything you might want to store while you're online. Getting rid of your data and account isn't as easy. First, log in and delete every single thing you stored there — and delete the trash, too, as those items are not automatically erased. Then go to the Deactivate Action page of the site. Note that it's not a true deletion, but it does prevent you from accessing Evernote with that same email address ever again. (You can change your email address easily enough under settings, don't use the nuclear option for that).
This is another site where you can deactivate the account to stop using it, but can't actually delete it. Once you do it, the boards and everything you pinned are no longer available and the account is unlinked from services like Facebook and Twitter. But the username and email on the account remain in place (so at least change the email address if you want to set up a new Pinterest account later). To deactivate, click your name while logged in, go to Settings, and you'll find the deactivation button at the bottom.
It used to be impossible to kill a Skype account, but you can reportedly now do it via an online chat with Skype representatives. It's only possible if you're logged into the Skype.com site, so they can tell it's you. They'll still ask for proof by asking you to identify at least five contacts in your Skype account, plus the email you used to sign up. After that, they'll shut it down for you. (This only works for Skype IDs, not if you use your Microsoft ID to log into Skype).
Want to drop those online shops? Here's how to rid yourself of Amazon, eBay and company...
Closing your account at Amazon means no longer having access to Wish Lists or Associate Accounts or any other associated content. The cancellation is not necessary if all you want to do is change your email or credit card on the account. You can perform either of those tasks under the Your Account link, which you'll find in the upper right-hand corner of any Amazon page.
To actually delete an account altogether, make sure you have no orders outstanding. Go into Amazon Help & Customer Service, and click on the Contact Us link on the right. Write a brief note to Amazon telling them why you want out, and send it off.
Amazon's arm for audiobooks has an Account Details link on every page (just click your name at the top when signed in). Verify your password (it's probably the same as your Amazon account, if you've merged them), and look for the Change My Membership link. On the next page, scroll down; you'll see a Cancel Membership Plan link.
Cancelling means saying goodbye to any accumulated credits on your account. However, you can still get access to your library of audiobooks to re-download, if needed. Obviously, this is more of a "deactivation" than a "deletion." If the cancellation doesn't work, call them. Try 888-283-5051, or 973-820-0400 outside of the US and Canada.
Apple ties everything you do – computers purchased on Apple.com, entertainment bought on iTunes, or apps downloaded — to your Apple ID.
Getting rid of an Apple ID is next to impossible. If you make a mistake and create an account you don't want, it can't be merged with another account. There are reports that you can call customer service and ask for an account to be deleted, but don't count on it unless you can supply a certificate showing the customer is deceased.
Here's what you can do: Make sure no credit cards or "trusted devices" are associated with the account by visiting the Apple ID sign-in page. You should also "delete" your Apple ID from your Mac or iOS device (instructions here) if you no longer want to use it — but your existing Apple ID will always exist in the servers at Cupertino.
By the way, one reason to not deactivate your Apple ID with your software, in particular iTunes, is DRM. Music and video are tied to your account via Digital Rights Management to protect the copyright, but you'll be the one getting punished if you can't listen to your tunes any more just because you messed with your account.
Killing an eBay account means never going back — at least, not with the same email address or user ID. Although this could be a handy thing for those accumulating bad feedback. Cancellation is not immediate; you get 180 days to finalise any transactions. If you change your mind during that time, you can reactivate the account. eBay holds on to your records even after shuttering your account, "to comply with laws, prevent fraud, collect any fees owed, resolve disputes, troubleshoot problems, assist with any investigations, enforce our eBay User Agreement, and take other actions as permitted by law."
To close an eBay or PayPal account altogether, visit the Close Your Account page. You'll have to sign in, of course. You get a choice to shut down the whole account, a seller account, an eBay store, or just your PayPal account. Follow the instructions for whichever you choose.
Had your fill of movies? Then read on for our entertainment service divorce tips...
Netflix knows that if you cancel something, you want it done in real-time. It even warns that your cancellation will be "effective immediately." But note that it's really just deactivation. You can't really delete all the info Netflix has from you — ratings, reviews, and so on, as that's all fodder for them in creating recommendations.
To get loose, visit the your Account page, and click either "Cancel Streaming plan" or "Cancel DVD plan."
Flixster's site for rating movies provides an entire page of info on how to cancel out of Rotten Tomatoes. That's because you might have signed up with a Flixster account, or using your Facebook login. Ultimately, what it boils down to is you have to send an email to email@example.com asking to get deleted. Sorry, Ryan.
Yes, you can have a paid account at the world's best database of movie and TV info (which is owned by Amazon). If you don't want it any more, there's a straight up Delete Account page that will take care of that.
And last but not least, here's how to wipe yourself from those dating sites once you've found your ideal partner.
You can quit the service by accessing your membership page on the site and selecting My Settings and then Account Settings. Look for Subscription Status and click either "Cancel My Subscription" (so you don't pay anymore, but your matches stay accessible) or "Close Account."
If you're trying Match.com's free trial and don't want to continue, you can resign your subscription. Go to your Account Settings and select the Change/Cancel Membership page. If you're a paid member and don't want to renew, go to the same page. You can still sign in until the end of your subscription term, however. Once you've found a new love, just be sure to hide that profile. You can't really delete it forever, though, as Match.com keeps your data in storage even if it's not accessible to others "for historical and legal purposes only."
Straight to the point, PlentyOfFish lets you stop casting a net utterly and permanently when you visit the Delete account page. The site might delete you itself if you misbehave.
Some accounts you can't get rid of
There are a startling number of services and publications online that do not let you delete an account at all. They generally state it up front in the terms of service — you know, the text that no one ever reads. If you suddenly decide to reclaim your privacy and want to obliterate yourself from the following services, well, you're out of luck. Note that most of these companies keep this information for legal and regulatory reasons. Some are just not that into helping you.
Ancestry.com—A paid account can be set to free by cancelling your subscription, but a free account? That's forever.
Gawker Media (including Gawker, Lifehacker, io9, Jalopnik, Deadspin, and more)—Despite once having compromised user security, Gawker's ToS states: "We don't allow deletion of accounts or comments."
PlayStation Network—If you want to leave Sony's game network behind, the best you can do is change all the personal info in the account and walk away.
Wikipedia—Wikipedia wants attribution on changes to its millions of articles, so it doesn't allow a username to be deleted. It can, however, be changed.
WordPress.com—You can't delete an account, but you can delete the individual blogs associated with it. It suggests simply leaving the account inactive if you don't want it any longer.