Applies to: SharePoint 2013+, SharePoint Online
Contribute was the standard permission level for users in the Members group of a site in SharePoint 2010 and earlier. This gave them the ability to add, edit and delete items contained within the existing libraries of the site. In SharePoint 2013 and above (including SharePoint Online), a new default permission level was given to the Members group: Edit. In addition to the capabilities granted by the Contribute permission level, Edit also gives users the additional abilities to edit and delete existing lists, plus create new lists.
Because this permission level is given to all users assigned to the Members group by default, it gives your average user the ability to do a lot of damage to your SharePoint environment, such as by deleting entire lists of documents, either maliciously or by accident. The list permissions available in the two levels is illustrated in the table below.
|Override List Behaviours||NO||NO|
|View Application Pages||YES||YES|
The key difference here is the “Manage Lists” permission which by itself grants users the power to “Create and delete lists, add or remove columns in a list, and add or remove public views of a list”.
Our recommendation (see Tip #4 of our Top 10 Tips) is to create a new SharePoint Group which is assigned Contribute permission. You can then make your new SharePoint Group the default group for the Team Site. So when users click Share, the users will be granted Contribute rather than Edit.
As a general rule, give users the lowest permission level required for them to do their jobs. More detailed information on SharePoint permissions can be found in our popular SharePoint Permissions Guide.
Updated October 2019
We hope this information is useful to you. Setting permissions incorrectly in SharePoint can be disastrous for some. Put your mind at rest by using a permissions management tool such as DeliverPoint, available for either SharePoint Server or SharePoint Online.