One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about using various web services and social networking sites is the need for multiple accounts; multiple user names, multiple passwords, multiple things to forget. Who hasn’t used those handy “Forgot your password?” links at least once (or fifty) times?
The dream of many web users is the idea of having only one account to sign into multiple services. (Nope, you’re not the only one to have thought of it.) One mainstreamed answer to this need has been OpenID. This allows you to sign into multiple web sites with just one set of login information. OpenID is already in use by Google, Microsoft, MySpace, Yahoo, Plaxo and other major players on the social web. But you haven’t heard of it, you say? Unfortunately, OpenID has been tied up by several issues for some time, including branding discussions and poor usability. It’s here, it’s in use, but apparently it can confuse a lot of people.
Another entity has solved the usability problems: Facebook. However, their solution is closed and proprietary, an internal solution that doesn’t use the OpenID platform. This means, firstly, that you have to have a Facebook account to use it and, secondly, that it doesn’t play nice with everyone else using the OpenID standard. However, their solution is much simpler. Sites that are using Facebook Connect for logins just offer up a big blue button that the user clicks, and then signs in with their Facebook login information.
While OpenID is more available (at least for now), it can be confusing because it allows you to login to a site by typing in a URL, rather than a username/password combo. The site then references that URL to get what it needs to log you in. In addition, many people already have an OpenID and don’t know it. Chances are you might be one of them. Already have an account with Flickr, Blogger, WordPress.com, Yahoo or a host of others? Then you already have an OpenID. Surprise! If you don’t have one but want to get one or start with another identity, go to MyOpenID.com.
Several high-profile web sites will shortly begin using the competing Facebook Connect service, including Digg, Hulu and Discovery.com. There is already speculation that, if OpenID doesn’t work out the kinks, that it may never catch up to Facebook Connect.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- If you require users to have accounts and login to something that is compatible with OpenID (e.g., a WordPress or Blogger blog), it would be a good idea to enable OpenID for those users who choose to use it.
- While Facebook Connect is probably easier to use, it is still dependent on the user having a Facebook account. It also is part of a closed ecosystem that does not work with OpenID.
- Keep a close eye on these over the next several months; I’m betting there will be a clear winner by the end of 2009.
- To learn more:
- As Facebook Connect Expands, OpenID’s Challenges Grow
- OpenID is Here, Too Bad Users Can’t Figure Out How it Works