OpenID: Who Can You Rely On?

Those of us who use (or at least try) too many web services tend to regard OpenID as good news: it means that each of us can sign in to one service in order to access multiple services. For example, I use ClaimID as my OpenID provider. Once I’ve signed on their, I can use the OpenID it provides me with to sign in to services such as Highrise and…

Now we get to the bad news. Most of the services I use don’t accept OpenID. For example, if you wanted to comment on this post, having an OpenID wouldn’t help you, because WordPress.com doesn’t accept them. It does issue them, though; indeed, I tend to use the OpenID associated with this blog when I leave comments at Blogger, which does accept OpenIDs.

Many have argued against sites providing, but not accepting, OpenID. I did so, rather gently, and with reference to WordPress, about a year ago. Today, Mike Arrington made a similar argument, but rather more vigorously and with reference to web bigcos, today.

The problem… is that the Big Four Internet companies… have made big press announcements about their support for OpenID, but haven’t done enough to actually implement it. Microsoft has done absolutely nothing, even though Bill Gates announced their support over a year ago. Google has limited its support to Blogger, where it is both an Issuing and Relying party. Yahoo and AOL are Issuing parties only.

… Putting my conspiracy theory hat on, it looks to me like these companies want all the positive press that comes from adopting this open standard, but none of the downside. By becoming Issuing parties, AOL and Yahoo hope to see their users logging in all over the Internet with those credentials. But they don’t accept IDs from anywhere else, so anyone that uses their services has to create new credentials with them. It’s all gain, no pain.

Meanwhile, the service that I’d really like to get my OpenID from doesn’t issue OpenIDs – or accept them. It’s FriendFeed: here’s my FriendFeed. An OpenID is actually a URI, and the FriendFeed page is as good an identity page as any.

Hey, I just remembered reading the news that FriendFeed now has an API. Someone should set up a service that issues you an OpenID and gives puts stuff from your FriendFeed on your page.

What DiSo Means to Me

Many feed readers (mine included) just caught DiSo. That’s not as unhealthy as it might sound. The term refers to distributed social networking. Maybe it might have been called DiSoNe, but that would be a silly name.

DiSo is a free/open source software project. The software will implement web standards such as OpenID and OAuth. 2007 was a big year in terms of the definition of these standards. It seems to me that one of the more immediate goals of DiSo is to make 2008 as big a year in terms of implementation.

The DiSo model “can be described as having three sides… Information, Identity, and Interaction.” I think that the first and last of these sides correspond to Content and Connection. I admit that’s rather like saying that I made myself a hammer a while ago, and now everything looks like a nail. Perhaps I need a term for Identify beginning with C: character? How good a term is that? It depends on how closely web identities resemble fictional characters.

Does all this stuff about standards and models sound rather abstract? I’d say yes, and that if the abstraction is a problem, then the DiSo project is an attempt at a solution. It’ll produce code that people can use. To get gradually more specific:

Well, that’s what I’ve found out or deduced about DiSo so far. I hope that the above is helpful to others. I had to do some digging and head-scratching before arriving at this understanding. I found Anne’s post at GigaOm to be too WordPress-centric (yes, I believe that it’s possible to be too WordPress-centric).

I tend to sync better with Chris Messina’s ideas than with his writing. For example, I don’t find the term The inside-out social network very helpful. And, after reading the last paragraph of his post with that name, I feel rather tired, vaguely inspired, but none the wiser.

Of course, the rather tired thing may be because it’s 3am here. If, due to that or any other cause, there are mistakes in the above, I hope that someone more knowledgeable and/or awake will correct them.