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September 06, 2010

When technology disappears

A colleague at Eduserv asked me the other day why there isn't as much noise as there used to be about OpenID and whether it was indicative of a loss of interest or something else.

It's inevitable I guess. New developments, particularly those that look as transformative as OpenID looked at the time, tend to generate a lot of noise and activity, often at a level that isn't sustainable for very long. Something else of interest comes along, there are various contenders in this case, and the world shifts its interest - or, at least, the audible noise that results from such interest.

In the discussion that followed the initial question it turned out that we both thought that some combination of OpenID and OAuth was somehow being used behind the scenes of things like Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect but we weren't quite sure how much and how often.

I decided to look around and find out.

Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed with what I could find - at least without spending more time on it than I could afford. The OpenID.net website carries an impressive list of adopters across the bottom of the page but doesn't indicate whether they are Identity Providers or Replying Parties (or both), nor what the status of their adoption is. So I asked on the openid-board@lists.openid.net mailing list:

Also, when I chose to login via Google, Facebook, whatever... from a typical pull-down list (e.g. that offered by something like Janrain Engage)... is it ever using OpenID behind the scenes? If so, what proportion of the time?

and got the following helpful response from Brian Kissel at Janrain:

Speaking for Janrain Engage, yes, it’s OpenID behind the scenes for Google, Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, LiveJournal, Blogger, PayPal, etc. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are based on OAuth, and some use a hybrid of OpenID and OAuth.

So... OpenID is alive and well (I'm sure you knew that) but looks like it is probably disappearing into the infrastructure to a certain extent - which is exactly where it belongs.

In case you were worried...

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And for those who would like to see who else is using OpenID, here are a few more examples: http://www.janrain.com/customers/customer-showcase

Today for the first time I note that one of the really big guys is playing nicely with the OpenIDs of other really big guys: http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/07/google-yahoo-openid/
(though I believe your colleague already has a Google ID of his own!)
As you say, you don't notice it but it's gradually taking hold, and although there is still a niggling doubt that the larger players have less to gain from being Replying Parties than do small companies and users, it looks like even monsters like Google sometimes have to accept that others have even more momentum.

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