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Will OpenID Really Deliver?


This is a question I am hoping to get your input on. I would love to hear what you think about the technology and what you think it will take for it to be a broad success.

I have only followed OpenID peripherally, but yesterday I spoke with Larry Drebes of JanRain, a startup that’s contributed a lot to the OpenID effort.

OpenID is a set of open source technologies that creates a universal login and an authentication system. It’s an idea that companies have tried to populariaze—without success—over the years. Why? Mainly because when one company or a camp of companies tried to control the idea, it was doomed to fail. The open source nature of OpenID, though, sets this project apart.

Now on Monday, OpenID is getting a new kickstart. After around 18 months of work, the 2.0 spec is being locked down and launched. According to Drebes, the main differences in version 2.0 are that it has beefed up security and added Identifier recycling and directed identity. Identifier recycling is a big deal for large companies that have millions of users and so can run out of names. This allows them to reassign names if someone isn’t using it. Directed Identity lets you use the same password but change your identity if you’re commenting on a blog, for instance.

Part of what’s important, says Drebes, is that with OpenID you can create a reputation that’s associated with one ID. And you can authenticate that a person is who they really say they are, helping to do away with spam.

So this sounds all well and good. And if the new specs deliver, then the 150,000 people who are now using OpenID could explode, right? Well, that’s where I would love to hear from you to help me understand more about this.

The marketing part I get. Apparently there already are 160 million enabled OpenID users. That’s because a couple of huge providers, AOL and France Telecom, have enabled their subscribers’ accounts. If more big service providers, search engines, and portals sign up and start marketing this (Marshall Kirkpatrick has one good suggestion on how), then suddenly you could see an explosion.


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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