On Friday last week, I went to the OpenID panel discussion, hosted by Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb and starring Scott Kveton, vice-chair of the OpenID foundation board of directors and bacon enthusiast, Chris Messina, community advocate for OpenID, OAuth, and open web in general, and my pal Rick Turoczy, local OpenID wonk.
Dave Recordan, who was scheduled to be on the panel, had to bail early, so Rick stepped in to take his place, a fact I teased him about mercilessly at lunch before the panel.
Rick is no OpenID slouch though. He has covered OpenID and open web for several years, and not just as they relate to the Pacific Northwest. Still, it was fun to tease him.Not surprisingly, the panel was sparsely attended, although people did filter in during the session. One guy came in to look for an outlet for his laptop, and not finding one, left none the smarter despite the OpenID luminaries in the room.
News flash: OpenID comes off as super geeky.
This was a hot topic for the panel. In its current version, as URL that you provide as your credentials to a relying party, OpenID is tough for the average user to get. They compared it to RSS as a failure of technology, but it’s a bit early to declare failure
Facebook’s support for OpenID as a relying party should help. Too bad it’s not working, at least not for me (I’m not alone).
Scott compared the problem to saying you’re SMTP’ing someone rather than saying you’re emailing them. He went on to compare OpenID to Bluetooth and wi-fi as technologies that create a market, whereas OpenID by definition has no market.
Chris disagreed with the market analogy, but all the panelists agreed that OpenID needs to be easier, more like an underlying (and unmarketed) technology that just works for sites.
Part of the hurdle comes from the unintuitive use of a URL to authenticate via OpenID.
All the panelists saw the future of OpenID being at the browser level, not at the individual site level, i.e. you login to your browser, which handles the authentication to each site you visit seamlessly.
Mozilla Labs seems to agree. They are already prototyping how browser-managed authentication could work. Chris agreed with my initial impression that they are on a weird path, but at least, someone is thinking about it.
Eventually, the panel moved on to the interesting stuff, i.e. the OpenID payload possibilities. Beyond the convenience of a single sign-on experience, OpenID could grow to be the single source for information about you–your profile, tags, friends, your online activities, pretty much anything.
Once there’s a single source for this stuff, reputation can be established in a single place (vs. distributed over a whole mess of places), which leads to a goldmine of cool stuff.
Overall, the panel banter was lively (partly because these guys all know each other well) and the content, interesting. OpenID has tons of possibilities. I hope it doesn’t go the way of RSS.
Chris dropped an interesting factoid about Twitter that resonated with me. He said 80% of Twitter’s development effort is spent on private accounts, which were added begrudgingly after the initial launch. Private accounts comprise a mere 10% of Twitter’s users though.
I’ve not done a scientific study of Connect, but that disbursement seems about right to me. Privacy on the ‘tubes is a myth, a unicorn. Please get used to it so we can build cooler stuff.
One final note. Chris Messina and David Haimes have to be twins separated at birth. See for yourself.
Those are my highlights from WebVisions 09. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I hope next year’s iteration will feature more design sessions.
Social media’s a fad anyway 🙂
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