OpenID Gets Explained, Maligned, and Dropped

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 07, 2009

Lots of people talk about the OpenID Web site login solution under development by the OpenID Foundation, but not everyone understands it. A handy new Web site aptly named Open ID Explained launched recently that aims to separate fact from fiction and educate the masses about what this project means in the larger picture of Web site user authentication.

Clearly, the project has fans, but not everyone is jumping on the OpenID bandwagon. In fact, some are jumping off.

Citing Wikipedia, OpenID Explained claims there are over 27,000 enabled sites, the number will keep growing, and Internet travelers ought to get in on the ground floor of what's sure to be widespread adoption.

"OpenID is different from how you log in today and will probably throw you off a little bit. We're here to help you learn what makes it useful and how to use it," says the Web site's home page. After a thorough explanation of the concept (complete with visual aids), visitors can learn details on how to get an OpenID and how to use it to log in to Web sites around the Internet. There's also a section for Web developers who want to learn how to add OpenID to their sites.

Many popular Web sites and companies were quick to embrace OpenID, including SourceForge, Yahoo!, and LiveJournal. when it first came on the scene. Now, the interest in the project seems to be waning. Free Web site network Wetpaint announced recently that it will no longer support OpenID as a login option for its wiki, citing low usage and high support costs as reasons.

"Out of over a million accounts, less than 200 registered users used OpenID...The costs to continue supporting OpenID are significant. It takes extra time for development and quality assurance testing each new release to make sure that OpenID works with the changes that we make. Given the low amount of usage, it makes more sense to focus these resources on building new features or improving existing features that are used by the majority of users," writes a Wetpaint site admin known as "Jeremy."

Network World's Dave Kearns also suggests that OpenID has lost its mojo. "OpenID spent the month of December embroiled in internal squabbles as the OpenID Foundation conducted elections for its board of directors. The results were due on New Year’s Eve... [but] the conversations about the election on the OpenID 'General' mailing lists (masochists can consult the archives here) shows why this group continues to be the most dysfunctional of all the open source software 'families'!"

Of course, not everyone is down on OpenID. The developers at Amarok are big fans and devoted an entire blog post outlining reasons to love the service, including its convenience and its increased ability to protect your privacy.

So, where do you fall on the OpenID like / dislike spectrum? Do you use it and appreciate it, or does its implementation limit and confuse you? Let me know in the comments.