OpenID, the single sign-on solution which allows you to use a unified identity across the web, now boasts one billion potential users. Providers like Google, Yahoo and WordPress have adopted the technology, providing nearly everyone on the web with easy access to an OpenID account.
OpenID lets you log in to your favorite website using only your e-mail address or a URL — your blog’s address, a profile page on a social network or your social network username/password. Using one of those identifiers, you can log in to any website or service where OpenID is welcome, saving you the trouble of having to keep track of dozens of account names and passwords. There are also companion technologies that help you automatically fill out a profile and connect you with your friends once you’re logged in to a new social website.
For a long time, OpenID was a fringe technology, and few large players supported it. In January 2008, Yahoo and AOL were the first major destination sites to host OpenID accounts. 2009 has seen everyone from Microsoft to Facebook to the U.S. Government embracing OpenID. In addition to the one billion accounts coming from OpenID providers, the OpenID foundation says that nearly 9 million websites will allow you to login using your OpenID credentials.
The short story is that OpenID is now well established on the web. But the story doesn’t end there.
Sadly, one billion potential users does not one billion users make. Many people with OpenID accounts remain blissfully unaware of OpenID and what it can do for them. OpenID also faces strong competition from proprietary ID solutions like those of Facebook or Twitter.
OpenID interfaces are another problem we’ve covered before — different sites use vastly different sign-in forms which has creates confusion for less-than-savvy web users. Couple that with Facebook’s far simpler Facebook Connect tools and you begin to see why OpenID doesn’t have one billion actual users.
The good news is that the OpenID Foundation and its partners have been working hard to streamline the login process and improve the usability of OpenID on those 9 million sites that accept OpenID.
We’re excited to see that what began as little more than a grassroots effort to solve the problem of remembering too many usernames and passwords, has turned into a massive, web-wide effort to create better, portable identity tools. So even if OpenID hasn’t seen the widespread adoption of other login systems, it certainly set the ball rolling among the web’s social networking technicians.