ifacethoughts

OpenID And Make Your Website URL Your Identity

OpenID logo

How many websites do you login to? I for have thousands of accounts and consequentially thousands of usernames and passwords. I forget the ones I use infrequently and end up creating another set. It is quite an effort to keep their track, all my attempts like storing them in email or locally on machine or in a database have turned out to be ineffective or inefficient. Do we really have to remember so many usernames and passwords for using all these services? It is natural for you to feel it is so, until you know about OpenID.

What is OpenID?

OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity.

OpenID starts with the concept that anyone can identify themselves on the Internet the same way websites do-with a URI (also called a URL or web address). Since URIs are at the very core of Web architecture, they provide a solid foundation for user-centric identity.

In short, OpenID is a URL based identity syste. You can create an URI to represent you on the Web. No need of using a username to do so, just use the URI, everywhere. There are multiple providers of OpenID, and they securely store your password. Sites which take OpenID (like Zooomr, LiveJournal), ask you to enter that URI and then you get redirected to that provider. Once you login there, and sometimes even control black and white lists, you are given required credentials for that service you want to use.

It is not only convenient for the user but also secure since every service will not have its own storage of your passwords.

Your Website Your Identity

OpenID takes this one step further. If you own a URL already, like this blog’s URL, you can use it to delegate the identity to your OpenID provider. For example, I use getopenid.com/anadgouda as my OpenID URL that identifies me. I can quickly, that is, with a couple of lines of code, start using ifacethoughts.net as the URL. The advantage that I get here is that even if I change my OpenID provider in future the URL that identifies me can remain the same.

Brian Ellin has details on how to do this. For my blog I added the following in the head HTML element:


<link rel="openid.server" href="http://getopenid.com/action/authenticate" />
<link rel="openid.delegate" href="http://getopenid.com/anadgouda" />

Now I can use ifacethoughts.net wherever OpenID is demanded. So convenient, and true!

Not yet Popular

The problem with OpenID has been that it is still not popular. Popular services that use OpenID can probably be counted with your fingers. In spite of being one of the best in technical merit, benefit to the user and ease of operation, many have not picked it up. I attribute this to lack of knowledge and sometimes misconceptions. I want my OpenID! is setup as a community marketing home for OpenID, but I wonder how many know about it. There is also a centralised resource site called OpenID Enabled that has a lot of tools for developers.

I think it is a brilliant concept, but needs to be popularlised, needs to reach the common man on the Web. Such concepts will not be useful unless they are popular and are adopted by a lot of services. Maybe a starting a blog can help.

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