OpenID At The Tipping Point: What You Need To Know

If you haven’t heard about OpenID yet, chances are you soon will. OpenID is a independent system that allows you to log into different sites using the same ID, negating the need to set up separate accounts on each site.

Until recently there’s been a lot of noise around OpenID, but the number of sites supporting it has meant that OpenID has not until now reached a tipping point. Things started to change last year with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others announcing their intention to support OpenID. I’d signed up for an OpenID years ago but I had never used it, until recently I went to sign up for a site and it only offered OpenID. Perhaps until now I’ve been blind to OpenID support, but ever since I keep finding sites that either offer OpenID as an alternative to setting up an account, or only offer OpenID as a sign in option. After years of promise, finally OpenID is gaining widespread support. Here’s what you need to know.

What is OpenID?

From Wikipedia:

OpenID is a shared identity service, which allows Internet users to log on to many different web sites using a single digital identity, eliminating the need for a different user name and password for each site. OpenID is a decentralized, free and open standard that lets users control the amount of personal information they provide.

The short version is that OpenID is one login for many sites.

How do you get an OpenID?

To obtain an OpenID you need to register your details with an OpenID provider. Until recently that meant signing up with a dedicated OpenID provider like MyOpenID, but mainstream companies such as Yahoo and AOL now offer OpenID logins for free to registered members. Nearly everyone has a Yahoo ID (for many, only because Flickr forced them on us) so you can sign up for a Yahoo OpenID here.

The only downside (as I see it) with OpenID’s is the length they force on the user, for example a MyOpenID username is. Sure, it’s not a major inconvenience, but compared to typing in simply yourname it may be a barrier for some people. Yahoo OpenID’s allow you to simply type in yahoo.com as the username then you are taken to a Yahoo page to confirm that you want to log in using your Yahoo OpenID, a very nice touch given it knows who you are presuming you’re curently logged in to a Yahoo account (for example if you use Flickr).

There’s a full list of OpenID providers on the OpenID wiki here.

Where you can use your OpenID

There’s no definitive list of sites that use OpenID, but here’s some of the major sites that support the service (via RWW)

There are also directories of sites that support OpenID at MyOpenID here and at the OpenID Directory. When in doubt, look for the OpenID symbol at the log in page you’re visiting.

Conclusion

For years OpenID (not unlike DataPortability now) has been the play thing of geeks without any mainstream acceptance, but support from the likes of Yahoo, Google, AOL and Microsoft means that after years of promise, OpenID is at the tipping point. Ultimately the idea behind OpenID: one central login for all sites is a positive for consumers at a time many, many more sites are competing for our attention. If you haven’t started using OpenID logins, give it a shot.