What is OpenID and Why Should I Care?

Recently, I have been hearing more and more about OpenID. For example, apparently Kevin Rose just announced at the Future of Web Apps conf. in London that Digg is going to be moving over to using the OpenID system. Apparently Microsoft and AOL are also moving in this direction.

My first question was what is OpenID and why should I care.

OpenID helps to solve the problem of having 30 different online services that you use and 30 different usernames and passwords for accounts that you have to keep track of. You think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be easier to have one username and password for all these systems?” I can easily think of 20 different systems off of the top of my head that I keep track of.

OpenID allows you to identify yourself using the URL of your home page or your blog, instead of a username or password. There would just be one box where you’d type in the URL of your identifier page that supports OpenID. When you entered your OpenID identifer URL, you’d be sent to that blog or home page system’s login page. You’d login and then you’d be redirected to the orginal system. You’d be authenticated with the original system and all would be good and right with the world.

This is the way that I understand OpenID. Am I missing something? I feel like I should draw a picture.

Any of you all been building web applications using OpenID? What are your thoughts? I have no experience with it.

So much of our lives our online. You can’t underestimate the importance of having secure and usable digital identities. We need to be able to easily and safely use the sites we need and not have to worry about anything.

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4 thoughts on “What is OpenID and Why Should I Care?”

  1. I’ve noticed a huff of OpenID-related chatter as well.

    Wikipedia points out a couple of organizations that are implementing OpenID, namely Microsoft (in Vista), Mozilla (Firefox 3), AOL, and Wikipedia.

    They also offer a different breakdown of how OpenId works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openid#How_OpenID_works

    How do I feel about it? Cautious.

    While I’m all for cutting down on the number of accounts I have to register for on the Web, I’m not a fan of complicating the already tiresome issue of authenticating w/a site.

    On the other hand, if implementation is widespread, and user awareness goes up, I could see this as being a positive thing.

    If there was some factor of trust we could build into it, I think it would be rad.

  2. I’m extremely intriqued by OpenID. We are considering building it into the next version of billQ, but we aren’t exactly sold on it. I’m not a big fan of the extra steps it takes to login (as oppose to the standard single login page). If they simplify the process (and it is indeed secure), then I think this could be an amazing thing for the web.

  3. @Zack: I’ll be anxious to hear if you decide to use OpenID for billQ. You should do a write up for your blog about what its like to implement it.

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