I have to say that it’s things like this that really make me shiver with excitement…
I mean, it’s pretty simple, but it’s also pretty important.
What’s the big deal? Well, for one thing, it’s yet another site adopting OpenID, a decentralized identity system. And, as more and more sites adopt this system (which should remain transparent to end-users if they don’t want an OpenID), we near ever-closer to a lightweight, single sign-on solution.
To be sure, OpenID isn’t a panacea. It’s not intended to be one. The primary attractiveness of OpenID is its simplicity: it’s decoupled the issue of trust from identity and simply offers a way of staking your identity to a given URL. In a sense, if you can trust the credentials of Website X, then you (as a web service provider) can trust accounts created on that domain as well. The benefit for the account holder is that they don’t have to re-register on Website Y.
Note that this is a web-centric solution and doesn’t carry well into the real world where people don’t identify themselves by URLs (hmm, what if instead of a social security number, we were assigned a URL at birth? whoa.).
The other thing that’s great about this announcement is that it’s the work of Scott Kveton’s new startup, JanRain. I brought Scott and Terrell Russell together some time ago, so it’s awesome to see the fruits of this connection already — and that Scott’s going off to do this kind of work full-time.
What I want to see? Well, the proliferation of OpenID across all the various sites that I use. The cost is minimal since the libraries are being developed on all kinds of platforms — and it should integrate fairly well with existing login schemes. Then I want to see either Ma.gnolia or ClaimID add support for XFN (they already support hCards and ClaimID allows for custom
rel values). Then, of course, we need to be able to string together (loosely coupled, mind you) my contact list and my group membership list so that I can import and export them wherever I go (obviously this should be done with microformats). Once we’ve got that situation fleshed out, and I’ve claimed my sites with either MicroID or (preferrably)
rel=me, I’ll have a pretty portable social network to carry around the web!