Are you sick and tired of having different logins and passwords for every website you have an account on or even just want to leave a comment on? Me too, and maybe someday everyone will use something like OpenID. Don't hold your breath, though..
The idea is simple enough: you have an id at an OpenID server. I signed up at Get an OpenID®, but you may aready have an OpenID without realizing it: I have an account at Technorati, and Technorati is also an OpenID server. I have at least two identities: pcunix.myopenid.com, and technorati.com/people/technorati/pcunix.
Wnen you want to sign in at an OpenID enabled site, you just use your account at the server. Therefore I could use either "pcunix.myopenid.com" or "technorati.com/people/technorati/pcunix". Actually, I could also use "aplawrence.com" because I added two tags to my page headers:
<link rel="openid.server" href="http://www.myopenid.com/server" /> <link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://pcunix.myopenid.com/" />
So what happens when I put "aplawrence.com" in as my OpenID logon? The site I want to use checks with aplawrence.com and finds those two tags, and they cause it to relay the request to "myopenid.com". A browser page opens up at "myopenid.com" which makes me login (unless I'm already logged in). Note that the site I'm logging into isn't monitoring or observing this activity at all - it's waiting for "myopenid.com" to send back a response saying "Yeah, this guy is who he claims to be". That's it. Only "myopenid.com" ever sees your password, and you can even bypass that by putting an SSL certicate on your browser that identifies you.
But you know what the problem is, don't you? Right - nobody uses it. Even sites that can use it (like Technorati) don't necessarily make it obvious that they do. Seems to me we've been down this road many a time.
Even sites that DO use it are apt to send you to "openid.net" instead of a server provider. That's a big mistake, because "openid.net" is way too geekish and uninformative - it probably sends more people away totally confused than it ever manages to convince to sign up.
When a site doesn't use OpenID, they suggest sending email:
Hey <sitename>, I'm an avid user of your site and know that you like to be on the leading edge when it comes to innovative technologies. I'd like to see you support OpenID (http://openid.net) as it allows me to use your site more easily. With OpenID I'm able to come to your site and sign-in with my OpenID, removing the need to create yet another username and password which means that you're able to sign-up more people. OpenID is really easy to integrate and allows users from many large sites such as AOL, LiveJournal, and WordPress to login with just a few clicks. I encourage you to check out http://openid.net/ or join the mailing list email@example.com. Thanks, <yourname>
A site owner (like me) will go to "openid.net" and probably be just as mystified as anyone else would be.. if he or she is really stubborn they might try some Google searches, but unless they can find a simple plugin for their blogging platform, they'll probably just toss it out the window.
Hint to people like OpenID that want to set standards: I don't want to have to download libraries or DLL's. I want a simple, simple, SIMPLE way to use your protocol. Take a page from Google's book: look at their Maps and Charts API's. Simple - ordinary http GETS. Anybody can integrate Google's API's. Yours needs to be just as easy.
Well, OK. I'll look into just how hard it really will be to use it here, and I will encourage other sites to at least look into it. Widespread use certainly would be nice..
Got something to add? Send me email.
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