The Blog

Small and Independent Publishers Rejoice! OpenID Will Set You Free. Maybe.

In brijit, publishing on Thursday, 17 January 2008 at 12:16

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch has it that Yahoo! is joining OpenID:

“The rumor last week was that Google (as well as Verisign and IBM) were mulling over the idea of joining the OpenID 2.0 single sign-on framework. But the real news comes today, as Yahoo and its roughly 250 million user IDs officially jump on the bandwagon. Today, there are only approximately 120 million valid OpenID accounts. In one move, Yahoo more than triples that number.”

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb reasonably rains on the parade a bit:

“Yahoo! announced this morning that the company will authenticate the identities of its 248 million users if they chose to login to OpenID supporting sites with their Yahoo! ID.

Like the AOL announcement of roughly the same thing in February of last year, the key question is whether Yahoo! will do anything substantive with OpenID or whether, like the AOL announcement, this will just be window dressing to legitimize advocates of OpenID. AOL’s support for OpenID appears to have resulted in little more.

Though there’s every reason to hope that today’s Yahoo! announcement will lead to ongoing, meaningful advocacy of OpenID by the company and then a future wherein Yahoo! sites accept OpenID from other providers – there’s also plenty of reason to be concerned that neither will occur and that Yahoo! interests are really only served by spreading the use of Yahoo! ID further around the web.”

Let’s grab onto that “every reason to hope” part. Let’s say Yahoo! turns out to be a fervent advocate of OpenID and not a mere press-release pusher. In this case, this is awesome, awesome news for small and independent publishers and everyone who might enjoy their content.

One important impediment to audience enlargement is the registration wall. It’s effectively a big sign that says “go away,” unless you’re prepared to take the time and energy to sign up. For many, it’s just not worth the aggravation, and people move on. Rapid adoption of OpenID would go a long way toward eliminating this frustration.

In building Brijit, we’ve been relentlessly focused on how we can help people find and access the world’s best content. We’ve found that much of this content is produced by small and independent publishers. It follows, then, that any tool that emerges that makes it easy for big audiences to interact seamlessly across websites (while attending to sticky privacy issues) is a good thing.

Put another way: if all goes well, pretty soon more than 350 million people could be walking around with skeleton keys to “walled gardens” across the web. Now all the publishers have to do is figure out to attract users beyond their core communities without alienating those communities. And of course, we think Brijit can be helpful here.


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