All posts tagged ‘Facebook Connect’

File Under: Identity, Web Standards

OpenID: The Web’s Most Successful Failure

First 37Signals announced it would drop support for OpenID. Then Microsoft’s Dare Obasanjo called OpenID a failure (along with XML and AtomPub). Former Facebooker Yishan Wong’s scathing (and sometimes wrong) rant calling OpenID a failure is one of the more popular answers on Quora.

But if OpenID is a failure, it’s one of the web’s most successful failures.

OpenID is available on more than 50,000 websites. There are over a billion OpenID enabled URLs on the web thanks to providers like Google, Yahoo and AOL. Yet, for most people, trying to log in to every website using OpenID remains a difficult task, which means that while thousands of websites support it, hardly anyone uses OpenID.

OpenID promised to solve two problems. First, it would offer an easy way to log in to any website without needing to create a new account. And, second, it would enable you to have a consistant identity across the entire web. This worked well with the limited audience of bloggers and tech-savvy users that were part of the original vision.

But then as the vision of OpenID grew to encompass, well, everything, it became bogged down in the details. Despite widespread support, there is no uniform user experience. Every site that supports OpenID does it slightly differently, which only further confuses the majority of people.

The main reason no one uses OpenID is because Facebook Connect does the same thing and does it better. Everyone knows what Facebook is and it’s much easier to understand that Facebook is handling your identity than some vague, unrecognized thing called OpenID. That’s why, despite the impressive sounding billion URLs and 50,000 sites supporting OpenID, it pales next to Facebook Connect. Facebook Connect has been around less than half the time of OpenID and yet it’s been adopted by some 250,000 websites, is available to the hundreds of millions of Facebook users and has the advantage of Facebook’s brand familiarity.

Facebook also added a key ingredient that helped drive other sites to adopt Facebook Connect — sharing user data. One of the reasons more sites support Facebook Connect is that they get a piece of the user pie.

Web publishers never warmed to OpenID since it allows a user to log in to a website and leave a comment on a story, a blog post or a photo while essentially remaining anonymous to the publisher. That anonymous aspect has made OpenID less attractive to publishers who want to collect more data about their readers or interact with them — whether that means following them on Twitter, connecting with them on Facebook or sending them e-mail.

The OpenID Connect proposal aims to solve this shortcoming by using OAuth to allow publishers to request more information from a user when they log in using OpenID. But so far there has been very little support for OpenID Connect. Facebook Connect is still far more popular.

However, not everyone wants to tie their website’s login structure to a single company like Facebook. If 37Signals is the poster child for OpenID failure, Stack Overflow is the poster child for its success. The popular programming Q&A site abandoned traditional username/password based accounts in favor of OpenID and declared the experience a resounding success.

Government sites are also looking to use OpenID rather than tie themselves to Facebook. And the Obama administration has announced plans for an Internet identity system that sounds a lot like OpenID, though the exact details have yet to be revealed.

Eventually OpenID will likely disappear from the web, not because it was a failure, but because identity will be managed in other ways. Mozilla is hard at work putting identity in the browser. It’s not hard to envision Firefox managing your OpenID credentials for you, just as it does today with your passwords. In that sense OpenID may end up like RSS (another tool routinely declared dead), invisibly powering features behind the scenes, essential, but unnoticed. Eventually online identity may even come full circle and move back into the real world — chips in your phone, tokens that generate random codes or biometric devices.

The legacy of OpenID may well be that it was ahead of its time, but that hardly makes it a failure.

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File Under: Events, Social, Web Standards

Up Next For Facebook: Expect More Open Interactions

Facebook F8

Facebook essentially copies a bunch of services that are already available on the open internet — chat, e-mail, media sharing, profiles — for its 400 million active users. But it also provides tools to help those users interact with each other while they’re outside Facebook’s walls, and there are signs the company is ready to make those tools more open and more easily integrated into other websites and applications.

The social network has already seen great success with Facebook Connect, its authentication system other websites can use to let their visitors log in using their Facebook username and password, then leave comments or share items with their Facebook friends with a single click. They can also hop around between websites and apps without creating a new account at each stop.

Facebook Connect has certainly fueled the explosive growth of social interaction across hardware and software platforms, as it helps Facebook friends notify each other of their activities on other social websites, the movies they’re renting, or the high score they just got on their favorite iPhone game.

Facebook Connect was first announced in 2008 at F8, Facebook’s developer conference. The next F8 is taking place Wednesday in San Francisco, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to announce the next phase of his company’s plans to further extend its sharing platform during his keynote address.

The Facebook Connect system isn’t entirely open — a key reason for its existence is to feed social sharing traffic back into Facebook. But it has much in common with other emerging open standards like OpenID and OAuth. Most social websites use a mix of both Facebook and non-Facebook options to handle user authentication, and Facebook Connect is not fully interoperable with competing technologies.

But several recent events point to Facebook making its own platform work better with open technologies. Last year, the company joined the OpenID Foundation and it began partially supporting the technology by allowing users to log in to Facebook using OpenID credentials. Also last year, the company hired David Recordon, one of the key architects of OpenID and OAuth, and purchased FriendFeed, a website that aggregates people’s social activities. Soon after acquiring FriendFeed, Facebook released its Tornado sharing framework under an open-source license.

Facebook wouldn’t comment on any upcoming announcements when contacted for this story. However, outside developers remain hopeful that the company will continue to grow its sharing platform by making it work in tandem with other open technologies already in place.

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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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