What is OpenID and should I use OpenID on my website?

July 6th, 2010

OpenID is an alternative to the traditional way users log into a website. It is an open, decentralized means of authentication and access control, which allows users to log into several websites using the same credentials. These credentials come in the form of a unique URL. (e.g. myspace.com/username). This id is then authenticated by the user’s OpenID provider (here is a list of OpenID providers) which returns a message back with the result of the authentication. A few well known OpenID providers are Google, MySpace, WordPress, Yahoo, and AOL. Unfortunately, Facebook has yet to become an OpenID provider, however they do have their own authentication API, Facebook Connect, which allows users to log into your site using their facebook credentials. Based on Facebooks recent adoption of usernames, it is likely they will become an OpenID provider in the not too distant future.

Businesses benefit from using OpenID because it facilitates reduced cost for password and account management. It gives the user more control over their login, which can increase a sites visitor registration conversion rates. Users can also rid themselves of the hassle of needing multiple usernames for each website they visit, improving their productivity online. Most sites provide users with the option to login regularly with a username/password or with their OpenID. In this case, the user must first associate themselves to this id by adding their openID to their user account.

Originally developed in May 2005, OpenID has been gaining in popularity and usage. There are currently over 500 million OpenIds on the web. Sites such as Google, Myspace, AOL, WordPress, Yahoo, Sears and Facebook all allow OpenID authentication. Users can then use their Myspace credentials or myspace OpenID (myspace.com/username) to log in to 3rd party sites that have the OpenID capability. Many sites such as MySears.com allow for users to register via OpenID by authenticating them against their favorite social networking sites’ user credentials. See image below. Relevant user information (i.e. address, phone number) can be retrieved from the OpenID provider during this process.

If you’d like more information on OpenID or would like a estimate on integrating OpenId or Facebook Connect into your website, please contact us.

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Steve Demby

Steve is the Chief Operating Officer at Accella. His knowledge and experience in development and project management, he ensures our projects are completed on-time, in budget, and within scope. After earning his BS in Computer Science from the University of Maryland he began his career as a web programmer, developing web applications in PHP. He has worked on various projects including social networking, e-commerce and real-estate websites, as well as mobile applications.

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