The social Web is interesting. One of the new themes, memes, dreams, whatever you want to call it, that is prevailing at present is that of OpenID. The funny thing is, if you’re anything like me, it takes moment or two (and some serious Wikipedia time) to grasp these new concepts, and yet I’m the only bugger who’s willing to admit I’m clueless :)
My first port of call in my quest to understand was the OpenID website. They say:
OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity.
Geeks. When will they learn to speak human? Wait! Hold on! They do a better job in the next paragraph…
OpenID starts with the concept that anyone can identify themselves on the Internet the same way websites do – with a URI (also called a URL or web address). Since URIs are at the very core of Web architecture, they provide a solid foundation for user-centric identity.
Ah, so the gist is that I can be identified by my Web address – www.mikestopforth.com – online (provided I own that Web address). But why would I want to be identified?
According to the site, OpenID is attempting to solve the challenge of signing on to multiple Web sites and services with one username:
With OpenID Authentication, your username is your URI, and your password (or other credentials) stay safely stored on your OpenID Provider (which you can run yourself, or use a third-party identity provider).
To login to an OpenID-enabled website (even one you’ve never been to before), just type your OpenID URI. The website will then redirect you to your OpenID Provider to login using whatever credentials it requires.
Ok, so as I understand it all my details, including passwords, would be stored safely by a third party – an ‘OpenID provider’ so that I can save time, energy and brain space by simply having to authenticate a new site or service with www.mikestopfoth.com. Fair enough, I can see the benefit. Immediately there are some concerns about trusting a third party provider with my most intimate details though. Hindi Blogzine Nirantar describes OpenID as ‘one key to many locks’.
I dug a little further and found this helpful post by Sam Ruby, who explains how to get a free OpenID (at MyOpenID.com) and how to activate it. I went through the process and it all seems fairly intuitive. Give it a go!