File Under: Browsers, Identity, Social

Mozilla’s ‘Persona’ Project Wants to Help Manage Your Online Identity

Mozilla has unveiled a new distributed online identity system dubbed Mozilla Persona. The new Persona project is Mozilla’s latest effort to tackle online identity management by shifting the focus from individual websites to the web browser.

Mozilla has been playing with the idea of a browser-based identity manager for quite some time. In 2010 the company launched its Account Manager project, though it failed to gain much traction and was later scrapped.

More recently Mozilla has been working on Browser ID, a similar effort to move the process of managing passwords and online identities to the browser, rather than relying on any particular website’s login process. The Browser ID project offers developers a means of creating a browser-based login system for their sites. The code is available through GitHub and while using it is considerably simpler than similar efforts like OAuth, Browser ID has yet to catch on with many sites.

Mozilla Persona will build on Browser ID’s foundation (Browser ID will continue to be the name of the developer-facing aspect of the protocol), but add in more end user features like “an identity dashboard.” As with Browser ID, Persona will face a chicken and egg problem — why bother supporting Persona when few people are using it, and why bother using it when so few sites support it?

Thus far, aside from the proposed dashboard, Mozilla’s goals for Persona are only vaguely outlined. The closest Mozilla comes to giving it a concrete definition is to say that Persona will consist of “a collection of components and experiences we’re designing to manage the whole of a user’s online identity.”

If you’ve got ideas or opinions about what Persona ought to offer, you can let Mozilla know your thoughts via the mailing list or through Twitter using the #browserid or #mozpersona hash-tags.

For those wondering about the old Personas, the toolbar background images that can be applied to Firefox, fear not, they remain available and Mozilla is already on the hunt for a more fitting name.