OpenID – and the debate goes on…

There was a recent NY Times blog post about OpenID, speculating about the future of OpenID and it’s possible conscription into the war against identity theft. Other recent posts mirror concerns/speculations about OpenID, its ability to reach critical mass to be useful, and technical as well as usability issues.

While these are all valid observations it is important to note what OpenID is actually intended to do, solve one problem and solve it well. What problem? The problem of ‘too many user-names and passwords to remember’ and associated symptoms of social network fatigue (SNF), including irritation with continually entering the same personal info (date of birth, gender, etc.) and inability to easily move your online profile around with you to the different sites you visit.

What really needs to happen to make OpenID succeed? Well there is not just one thing that needs to happen, there needs to be a confluence of events. These are; the increase in support of OpenID by major sites (Digg?); the increase in use of OpenID accounts (millions of OpenID enabled users?), and an increase in education efforts about OpenID. While there can be some usability improvements, OpenID is not overly complicated. I would say OpenID is today, where eMail was in the 80’s. Still in the realm of those technically comfortable but with great potential to succeed. Users who send email today have little to no idea of what makes things actually tick under the hood and don’t need to. We need to reach that level of abstraction with OpenID.

Cool widgets like Verisigns OpenID Seatbelt Plugin will improve usability, and there is a legion of brilliant and dedicated developers working everyday to address technical issues with the protocol. Once OpenID 2.0 implementations are available I would expect to see some larger sites come out of the woodworks with support for OpenID logins. With time and education the 100 million OpenID-enabled users will exponentially grow to many hundreds of millions of active OpenID-enabled users and OpenID will succeed.

Kevin Fox and Kevin Turner recently gave a short speech about OpenID which covers quite a bit of basic information about OpenID, I have been told its not horrible :)

In the meantime there is always the OpenID channel on Pibb where you can discuss all things OpenID, there is also an OpenID group on Facebook!

~Kevin Fox