Mozilla has an answer to site-centric identity systems like Facebook’s — put the browser in charge of your online logins instead.
The Mozilla Labs project called Account Manager has graduated from Labs and will soon be making its way into Firefox proper.
Account Manager allows you to log in and out of websites directly through the browser, rather than relying on a particular site’s login form. Using a new menu item in the main toolbar — a button with a picture of a key that sits next to the address field — Account Manager lets you pick a login to use at any site you visit. It stores logins you’ve already created, suggesting them whenever they can be used. It can also generate (and remember) random passwords to make your logins more secure. It’s a radical step up from Firefox’s current Password Manager feature.
Mozilla’s decision to put this new button directly into Firefox’s toolbar brings us one step closer to realizing a ubiquitous social network on the web, where you’re logged in and connected to your friends wherever you go. All the while, you remain in total control of your own identity since you can tinker with all of your logins and connections through some simple panels in the browser.
There’s no word yet on when this will make it into Firefox, but we may see it as soon as Firefox 4, which is due in early 2011. For now, Account Manager is separate add-on you can grab from the Mozilla website. The add-on is still a beta release and there are some known bugs, but in our testing, it performed as advertised.
At the moment, Account Manager works with Google, Yahoo, Facebook and several Mozilla sites. Mozilla is planning to add support for other authentication systems, including OpenID, in the near future. The post on Mozilla Hacks also has instructions for site owners that let them add support for Account Manager with “only 15 minutes of hacking,” though we suspect it will become easier to implement support once the spec is fully formed.