OpenID: Control Your Identity?

OpenID is something I’ve been watching closely, mainly for web application development. The most difficult thing a young startup has to do after launch is persuading enough people to get past registration and use the service. We all know that our attention spans are shrinking and tolerance for registering an additional username and password is near zero. It’s a tedious process that most people are trying to use the same username and password across as many sites as they can register.

Jeremy Zawadony has an excellent roundup of OpenID. My take is that most of the existing major players have little to no motivation incorporating OpenID into existing services. With millions of IDs spread across the system and in many cases different properties within the main brand, not to mention all the users absorbed from acquisitions, make it a real pain and quite costly. In exchange for this cost, they basically run the risk of opening Pandora’s box, making it easier for a startup to leverage their registrations.

I think OpenID will serve to bootstrap the next generation of applications. We already have LiveJournal and Zooomr putting their weight behind OpenID and that should be more than enough for new services coming into the fray with OpenID integration.

Still, it will be some time before larger services are compelled to integrate into OpenID. Another major issue is that the OpenID system is distributed (which is a good thing most of the time) so you’re screwed if the service you use for OpenID goes down, you don’t have any recourse.

It all comes down to “how can we really own our identity?” Linking it up to some government identification like your SSN is not an option. But OpenID or any system like it will ultimately face this issue. What happens when your ONE identity is compromised? The challenge of OpenID is to maintain a certain degree of anonymity while enhancing convenience and maintain robustness. The appeal of removing the hassle of repetitive registrations and email confirmations is more than ample reward for OpenID to gain momentum.

The Tipping Point for OpenID (by Jeremy Zawodny)

OpenID, Portable Social Networks and the Darowski Problem at Like It Matters

Categories: web