OpenID’s Tipping Point

    January 18, 2007

The noise and interest around OpenID, a distributed and open lightweight identity system, has been growing for a few years now, but my sense is that it has dramatically accelerated in recent months.

So much so that things are starting to feel really, really close. And by that I mean that all it takes now is for one “big player” to jump on the OpenID bandwagon. OpenID will then either take off or fall flat on its face.

Everyone is waiting. Who will it be? I don’t know.

That aside, my money is on OpenID succeeding. It may not be a roaring success, but a population of very active web users will adopt it nearly overnight. We all hate having to invent Yet Another Username/Password Pair to try out some new service. Sure, site developers can use something like Google’s Account Authentication or Yahoo’s BBAuth, but many would prefer to use a vendor neutral standard. Can you blame them?

The odds of OpenID succeeding for real mainstream users, however, depends on it being simple and relatively idiot-proof. I believe that a few simple usability improvements to the OpenID 2.0 spec will greatly improve those odds. Unsurprisingly, they’re derived mainly from the last 10 years worth of experience and lessons learned in making web browsers more usable by humans who don’t know what “http://” means.

I’ve been thinking about this off and on for the last few months and will post about those ideas in the coming days. Hopefully some of you will help to sanity check and maybe even improve them.

Related Reading

OpenID on Wikipedia a short summary of the history and technology behind OpenID

MyOpenID is a free OpenID server you can use

OpenID for non-SuperUsers is where Sam Ruby explains how to begin using OpenID on your blog or web site

How to turn your blog in to an OpenID is where Simon Willison attacks the same problem. I rather like his own implementation, BTW.

How to use OpenID is screencast that Simon produced that walks thru the basics of OpenID from a user’s point of view. Watch it if you haven’t.

OpenID Specifications is where the latest spec documents live. Currently that’s 2.0 draft 11.

Planet OpenID aggregates lots of OpenID related news and blog posts


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Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

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