Yahoo! lends weight to single digital identity drive


18 Jan 2008

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Global web giant Yahoo! Inc is joining the vision of “one web, one log-in” by giving its support to the OpenID 2.0 digital identity framework, an initiative helping internet users bring all their online identities and passwords under one single ID that will work with all websites and blogs.

Yahoo! users will be able to use their Yahoo! username and password to access any sites that support OpenID 2.0, ruling out the need to create separate usernames, logins and passwords. The inclusion of Yahoo! users will triple the number of OpenID accounts, bringing the total number to 368m.

Yahoo!’s initial OpenID service, which will be available in public beta on 30 January, will enable users to use their custom OpenID identifier on me.yahoo.com or to simply type in “www.yahoo.com” or “www.flickr.com” on any site that supports OpenID 2.0.

Alternatively, websites that accept OpenID 2.0 will be able to add a “Sign-in with Your Yahoo! ID” button to their login pages. Yahoo! is working with several partners, including Plaxo and JanRain, to make it possible for users to access these sites with their Yahoo! ID from the first day of the public beta.

Yahoo! had already been heading in the direction of OpenID when it acquired the online photo sharing site Flickr in 2005 and decided to associate the site with the Yahoo! ID, requiring all new Flickr users to log into their accounts with their Yahoo! ID or sign up for one.

Following this, Yahoo! acquired MyBlogLog, a blogger community tracker that allows members to automatically log on when visiting their favourite blogs. Soon Yahoo! linked this site with the Yahoo! ID as well.

While some disgruntled Flickr and MyBlogLog users felt inconvenienced by the switch, Yahoo! has now managed to associate its account with one of the web’s biggest blogging communities as well as the most popular photo-sharing site.

Easy access

“A Yahoo! ID is one of the most recognisable and useful accounts to have on the internet and with our support of OpenID it will become even more powerful,” said Ash Patel, executive vice-president of platforms and infrastructure at Yahoo!.

“Supporting OpenID gives our users the freedom to leverage their Yahoo! ID both on and off the Yahoo! network, reducing the number of usernames and passwords they need to remember and offering a single, trusted partner for managing their online identity.”

“With Yahoo! actively engaged with the OpenID Foundation and its community to promote OpenID, Yahoo!’s users will be able to more easily access the many sites across the web supporting the standard. The potential for access to Yahoo!’s vast international user base will create an even more powerful incentive for additional websites to begin accepting OpenID users,” said Scott Kveton, chairman of the board of directors for the OpenID Foundation.

A milestone

Yahoo!’s implementation is based on the OpenID 2.0 specification, which the company worked closely with the OpenID foundation and community to finalise in December 2007. It includes new features that improve security and usability of OpenID, which Yahoo! said makes it the most user-friendly single sign-on and online user-authentication standard.

Yahoo! users who log in with their Yahoo! ID on OpenID sites will have the added protection of Yahoo!’s sign-in seal wherever they go on the web. In addition, no email or IM addresses are revealed or disclosed as part of the login process to protect users from phishing or other attacks.

“Plaxo believes that users should be able to carry their identity and personal information with them wherever they go across the social web,” said Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect of Plaxo. “Yahoo! is making that vision a reality by becoming an OpenID provider. Yahoo! users will be able to easily access Plaxo and other services without having to create and remember yet another password. This also paves the way for a secure approach to data portability between the various services people use across the web.”

“At JanRain, we believe the evolution of the internet and the next generation of web applications hinges on universal adoption of a secure, portable digital identity,” said Larry Drebes, founder and vice-president of engineering for JanRain. “The addition of 248 million Yahoo! users to the OpenID ecosystem will be a tremendous milestone in expanding the user base for OpenID.”

By Marie Boran and Niall Bryne

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