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Facebook Joins OpenID in Quest for Universal User Accounts

Facebook officially put its hand in OpenID’s ring by joining its board, according to an announcement by Facebook’s own Mike Schroepfer. Facebook’s inclusion means the company will have a hand in designing the future of the open standard which promises to put internet users’ identity and personal information in their own control while also making it universally accessible.

The movement is slightly surprising considering its own answer to OpenID, dubbed Facebook Connect, is considered by many to be the model competing technologies should adopt. Other notable competing technologies include Google’s Friend Connect and Microsoft’s Passport.

While surprising as a competitive strategy, Facebook’s representatives were particularly enthusiastic in OpenID User Experience summits in October. Also included in the summit were MySpace, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft — many of whom have already adopted OpenID technology in some way.

Facebook’s involvement and Thursday’s announcement is vague as to what the company intends to do with Facebook connect and OpenID, and in particular whether the two technologies will be compatible in the future.

However, it is clear that Facebook wants to show its support and lend a hand to the widely growing open standard. According to Schroepfer:

The future of an open and social Web will be measured not by protocols, but by how much we collectively improve the standards and technologies that enable us and others to give people more powerful ways to share and connect.

This should prove to be the boost OpenID needs to spur further development. With increasing enhancements by Google and Facebook, it could have been easy to forget OpenID. However, now with Facebook officially on board, it seems the big league companies won’t let that happen — a move uncharacteristic for two companies who should be battling for user data. In the end, this is a win for users with privacy concerns who want the ability to control this data themselves by making the data and the technology behind it portable and controllable under open source licenses.

More on Facebook’s announcement over at Wired’s Epicenter blog.

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