Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

File Under: Identity, Web Services

Mozilla Wants to Eliminate Passwords With ‘Persona’

Signing in with Persona. Image: Mozilla.

Mozilla has released a second beta of its distributed online identity system, Mozilla Persona.

The Persona project is Mozilla’s effort to tackle online identity management by eliminating usernames and passwords. Instead, Persona shifts the focus away from individual websites and handles the login details for you, using just your email address.

Among the new features in this release are some speed improvements, integration with Firefox OS and, most importantly, support for signing in with your existing Yahoo webmail account.

It’s the latter feature that just might give Persona the traction it needs to convince more big name sites to support it.

Using the new Yahoo email-based sign-in feature you can sign in to any website that supports Persona without creating a username or password — you just drop in your Yahoo email address and you’re done.

Mozilla calls this Identity Bridging and it’s available now for Yahoo.com email users with other popular webmail providers coming in the future. You can try it out on Mozilla’s demo site — click “Sign in”, enter your Yahoo email address and you’re done. To see what it looks like in action, check out the video below:

For more on Persona and the new features, head on over to the Mozilla blog. If you’d like to see what it takes to support Persona on your site (thankfully it’s much easier than OpenID), the Mozilla Developer Network has a good tutorial.

File Under: Backend, Identity, Web Basics

We Should Retire Aaron’s Number

Aaron Swartz. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

[Editor’s Note: Coder and activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide Jan. 11, 2013 in New York. He was 26 years old. See Wired’s early coverage for details.]

When a great baseball or basketball player leaves the game they retire his or her number. That means the jersey hangs from the ceiling, or there’s a plaque at the stadium, and no player on the team ever wears that number again.

Babe Ruth’s number, 3, is retired. Michael Jordan’s too (23). Jackie Robinson’s number, 42, is retired for all baseball teams.

On the web, retiring a number would mean the website is permanently registered, and the content is preserved so it lasts as long as the web does. That means the contents of aaronsw.com will be there forever. It will never become a porn site, or a landing page, or whatever.

Right now there is no way to do this. Isn’t that strange. We could fix it if we want. The internet is just software. It would be a small but worthwhile hack and could set a precedent for future memorials.

Something to think about!

This post first appeared on Scripting News. Also see the related thread on Hacker News.


Dave Winer, a former researcher at NYU and Harvard, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software. A former contributing editor at Wired magazine, Dave won the Wired Tech Renegade award in 2001.
Follow @davewiner on Twitter.

File Under: Identity, UI/UX

Twitter Creator Believes You’re More Than Just a ‘User’

The UserLand Software logo. Image: Dave Winer

What’s in a word? A lot according to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of mobile-payments company Square. Dorsey, who also help create Twitter, believes that the technology industry needs to reconsider the word user and find something less “derogatory” to refer to people that use its products and services.

As he points out, the word user in the context of software has mainly negative origins, often being used to refer to “a person who wasn’t technical or creative, someone who just used resources.”

That’s hardly how most of see ourselves when we log in to Twitter, Gmail or Facebook.

“It’s time for our industry and discipline to reconsider the word ‘user,’” writes Dorsey on his Tumblr blog. “We speak about ‘user-centric design,’ ‘user benefit,’ ‘user experience,’ ‘active users,’ and even ‘usernames’…. While the intent is to consider people first, the result is a massive abstraction away from real problems people feel on a daily basis.”

It’s easy to sympathize with Dorsey’s argument; after all, who wants to be referred to by a word otherwise mainly associated with drug use? Indeed I try to keep the word user out of Webmonkey articles for just that reason, but sometimes writing around user is more awkward than just, er, using it. That combined with the fact that the best alternative Dorsey can come up with the is the word customer, which is better but can still be equally dehumanizing in some contexts.

As with most debates about word choice and language it comes down to the intent the word is being used to convey. As RSS founder and longtime software developer Dave Winer points out:

Every decade or so this question comes up. Why do we use that awful U-word to describe our users? It’s hard to even formulate the question without sounding stupid. And every time the discussion comes up, it lasts a while before everyone gives up because there really aren’t any better words, and this is the word everyone uses so what are you going to do.

What Dorsey is doing is eliminating the word from Square’s vocabulary, telling employees that customer will replace user. He goes on to add that “we have two types of customers: sellers and buyers. So when we need to be more specific, we’ll use one of those two words.”

Dorsey also says he’ll pay out $140 if he ever uses the word again.

Winer believes in a different approach: embracing the word user. Winer even went so far as to name his second company UserLand Software.

In the end what matters is not so much what you call your users, but how you treat them. “The answer” writes Winer, “is to love those users so much that they don’t mind being called users. That’s an art a lot of tech companies have yet to master.”

File Under: Identity

Mozilla’s ‘Just Works’ Persona Login System Hits Beta

Mozilla is moving Persona, its online identity system, out of the experimental category and is releasing an official beta.

First released earlier this year, Persona offers a secure way to eliminate individual passwords for users while offering developers a simple way to add support and authenticate requests — think of it as OpenID without the headaches.

After seven months of morphing APIs and various Persona improvements, Mozilla has deemed the project “ready to use for authentication.” Persona works in all major desktop and mobile browsers and, according to Mozilla, the user experience has been considerably polished for this release. While Mozilla claims it’s ready to use, bear in mind that Persona is still officially a beta.

Mozilla Persona is a distributed online identity system. It’s part of Mozilla’s effort to tackle online identity management by shifting the focus from individual websites to a decentralized system that sites tab into.

Mozilla has been playing with the idea of a browser-based identity manager for quite some time, starting with its BrowserID project. BrowserID is the foundation of Persona, but the new system offers quite a bit more for both developers and users, including user-friendly features like an “identity dashboard” for managing your various credentials.

For more info on how Persona works, check out the screencast on Mozilla’s identity blog. If you’d like to try adding Persona support to your site, head over the Mozilla developer site to read through the Persona documentation.

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.