Posted by: Rob Hof on January 17, 2008
Oh, I think it’s potentially quite important: a way to carry a consistent digital identity across the Web, so you can reduce or eliminate the need to sign in dozens of times at various sites you use. OK, but obviously that hasn’t kept a whole lot of people from using the Web. And that’s why some people rightly point out that this could be a solution in search of a problem that most people don’t really care that much about.
Call me cynical, but I’m also a little suspicious of the unbridled enthusiasm of so many Web companies for something that will identify us all around the Web. As the OpenID site puts it: “With OpenID, you create a single username and password, along with some data about you.” (Italics added.)
My question is, what kind of data? There’s something of an example here. And to OpenID’s credit, the notion here is to give users control. But will they take it? I suspect many people will not. For instance, if you’re on AOL, did you know you automatically have an OpenID profile now? Most people online are pretty lazy when it comes to maintaining control of their data online.
Seems to me that once OpenID data starts to include things on sites we visit, marketers are going to get very interested. Today, they must resort to pretty arcane methods, from behavioral targeting to cookies, to divine our apparent interests. Is some of the push behind OpenID because marketers think it will be a dandy way to target people with ads or pitches better? If so—and I could be wrong on that, since the people behind OpenID seem to have noble motives—I wonder if people already a little creeped out by targeted ads will find OpenID more of a problem than a solution.