File Under: Identity, Social

As Yahoo Adopts Facebook Connect, Questions About OpenID’s Future Loom

Yahoo is integrating Facebook Connect across all of its properties, the company has announced.

A definite timetable hasn’t yet been made public, but Yahoo stated in a blog post Wednesday that it intends to roll Facebook Connect into its properties worldwide, so we should expect the services to be activated incrementally. [Update] Yahoo says, “The integration is expected to begin in the first half of 2010.”

Facebook Connect is the social network’s identity technology for allowing its users to log in to third-party sites using their Facebook credentials. It’s a two-click process — rather than logging in to Yahoo using a Yahoo ID, users can choose to use their Facebook IDs. Facebook asks the user’s permission to log them in to Yahoo on their behalf. The person clicks OK, and they can then roam around Yahoo as a logged-in user.

Once a person’s Facebook account is connected to Yahoo, anything they do there can be published to their Facebook feeds. So, every time they upload new photos to Flickr or share a Yahoo Sports news story, that activity can be posted in their Facebook feed if they choose to allow it.

The person’s friends on Facebook will be able to comment on that activity within Facebook or click through to see the photo or news story on the Yahoo-owned site, as well.

It’s a big boost for Yahoo — the company can now tap into Facebook’s intense social sharing mojo. Other sites which have incorporated Facebook Connect, such as Digg, have seen large boosts to both traffic and new user engagement since opening up the free-flowing conduit for cross-posting that Facebook Connect allows.

It’s also a giant step for Facebook Connect as an identity platform. But while Yahoo’s adoption of Facebook Connect is an enthusiastic endorsement of the identity technology, it raises questions about the future of OpenID.

Facebook Connect is officially coming into its own as a robust, widely-used identity platform, but it’s a proprietary system. The so-called “open ID stack” of identity tools — OpenID, OAuth and their companion technologies, all of which are open source — can accomplish the same thing Facebook Connect does, but it hasn’t seen nearly the same level of adoption as Facebook’s closed technology. It is still beset by usability problems (though it’s showing improvement), and some web properties which have implemented it have only done so partially.

Yahoo already supports OpenID. Other major sites like MySpace, Google and Microsoft support it as well, but OpenID doesn’t offer the tie-in to Facebook, or the ease of usability, that makes Connect so enticing.

Still, there is hope that OpenID, OAuth and Facebook Connect will become interoperable. Facebook supports OpenID logins (with some restrictions), and Facebook has joined the OpenID Foundation, the non-profit charged with furthering adoption of the technology.

Also, Facebook recently hired David Recordon, one of the web’s key proponents of identity technologies and an OpenID board member, to work on incorporating OpenID into the social network. And just a few hours after Yahoo’s announcement, Recordon let it be known that he’s looking for help.

Here’s David’s tweet: “Think you’re an awesome enough engineer to help make Facebook Connect support open standards like OpenID and OAuth? Email me.”

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