Building Better Silos

It’s been good to watch the use of OpenID spread. It’s great to see that has dropped “traditional login” in favor of OpenID. And I was encouraged to read about Yahoo’s support of OpenID. Granted, it took me a while to get around to trying it.
But when I got around to trying it, Yahoo!ID was a disappointment. The promise of OpenID is to return ownership of ID to the users, and to eliminate identity silos, in which the big sites compete to own your identity and your data. If that’s the goal, Yahoo!ID may not be a step backwards, but it’s certainly not much of a step forwards.

Although Yahoo is talking the talk, it’s still playing the same game. Today, I went to Yahoo to try to use my OpenID URL (from myOpenID). And I couldn’t. I kept being asked if I wanted to create a new Yahoo!ID account.

That’s precisely what I did not want to do. If I have to create a Yahoo OpenID for Yahoo sites, but that ID is different from the OpenID I already use for Ma.gnolia and other OpenID sites, what’s the advantage? I could give in, create a Yahoo! OpenID and use it everywhere–but isn’t that just giving in to the problem that OpenID was trying to solve? I don’t want Yahoo! to be the data silo that owns my identity, any more than I want ma.gnolia or or twitter or Get Satisfaction or… you get the idea. Google support for OpenID would be nice, but if they implemented GoogleID and didn’t accept IDs from Yahoo or any other ID-issuing organizations, we’d be right back where we started.

Yahoo’s OpenID press release is dated January 17th. Internet time flows quickly. I could perhaps pardon a “yahoo-only not-quite-open ID” in a beta release, though not an “eternal beta”. But I still wonder–what’s the deal? Three months is plenty of time to accept a standard that you already support.

OpenID is important because it places control back in the users’ hands. A net where we didn’t have dozens of accounts and passwords to remember is something we all want to see. But we won’t get there by building even bigger and better identity silos. “We support OpenID–you can use our OpenIDs anywhere. But don’t try using anyone else’s here” just isn’t an acceptable position.

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