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Janrain’s Take on 37signals Decision To Remove OpenID Login

By Katie Keenan | Posted on January 25, 2011

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Today 37signals announced in their blog that they are removing their OpenID login option in the coming months. 37signals was an early proponent and adopter of the OpenID protocols (as was Janrain) and the community was grateful for their support. At Janrain, we use 37signal’s Basecamp everyday for some of our customer interactions, and find it to be a great product. Shockingly, I am the only Janrain employee who uses an OpenID to access Basecamp. The reason behind this has little to do with OpenID itself and mostly to do with 37signal’s UI/UX (user interface/user experience) treatment:

37signals openid

  • The UI treatment sports the circa 2007 URL input field, and while this resonated with the early adopter crowd, it’s a high bar for the mainstream crowd. We learned several years ago that branded buttons make it very obvious for users that they can use their Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or other account to login. The naked URL bar makes it nearly impossible to take a Google or Google apps OpenID. Just a side note, Google is the most popular provider (transactional basis) across the 300,000 sites currently using Janrain Engage for social login.
  • Offering just OpenID is no longer enough. In fact we prefer to focus on enabling users to login with a social identity they already have, and not highlight the protocols under the cover (OpenID, OAuth, or an API to a proprietary system). The user doesn’t need to know it’s OpenID (Google, Yahoo, AOL), or OAuth (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter), or proprietary (Microsoft, etc).
  • The OpenID login is hard to find on 37signals’ interface and once users find it, they are not able to create new accounts with an OpenID. Unfortunately this diminishes a significant portion of the value proposition.

Our solution engineers have a long list of best practices based on working with customers of all shapes and sizes and across multiple industries. Very simply, use of social login (when done right) creates higher conversion rates for new users, and increases likelihood of return user login. I’ll miss OpenID on Basecamp, but I’ll hold out hope that the future brings social login to 37signals.

It is our opinion that OpenID and social login are still in the early stages of adoption, and new developments are happening rapidly. Most recently, several large identity providers now accept social login from multiple networks – the newest being Yahoo and Flickr, which allow Facebook and Google accounts to be used to login to their sites. Based on the rapid evolution of the market and the rise of social networks, we believe that in the near future, users will expect to be able to use an account that they already have to access any website. If that option isn’t available, they probably won’t sign up.

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About the author

Katie Keenan

Katie Keenan

Interactive Marketing Manager

A true geek at heart, Katie works behind the scenes on Janrain's website and social media strategy as the interactive marketing manager. Katie has more than 10 years of experience building websites and managing online communities in media, retail, technology, law and the nonprofit sector. Her passion: to get rid of the clutter and help to improve efficiencies across the web to spark online engagement.

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