February 6, 2009 |
There have been many postings from zynics and evangelists about Facebook joining the OpenID foundation board. The joining of forces leaves a couple of people irritated, because they either do not trust in facebooks honesty or they just do not see any sense in this move.
Well, I guess it’s not that complicated, it’s neither Facebook being evil nor Facebook becoming the holy grail of the open standards community - it’s just “business as usual” where every party wins some benefits. Let me give you the big picture the way I see it behind this move of Facebook - I guess if you agree with me on that picture, you will also agree on the possible next steps we will see from this.
Facebook has received a very positive feedback from users and techblogs about the user experience they create with Facebook Connect. Anyway there have also been security concerns (phishing), because the user could be tricked about the real url behind the “login layer” of Facebook Connect.
The OpenID community was shocked about Facebook Connect first, and some were even speaking of “the better OpenID”. But then the OpenID evangelists decided to learn from Facebook - that’s why you see two goals for 2009 announced on Openid.net: user experience and security. The point is to give OpenID the same user experience as facebook connect, only with a higher security level.
Looking at what facebook connect provides as features, the main experience for the user is to login or create an account with a new site and immediately have his social graph with him: see his friends on the new service, invite friends to join etc.
From that perspective it makes no sense for Facebook to accept OpenId logins from people WITHOUT a Facebook account on facebook connect. They would have to register with Facebook first and connect all their friends there too.
So what we will probably see first, will be Facbook acting as an OpenID provider (yes, I know this sounds frustrating): that way their users can login to any OpenID enabled site AND Facebook can spread its facebook connect technology to a whole bunch of new sites too. While this will surely be a free option for every relying party, I guess the acceptance will be high: Accepting OpenID as a relying party is good anyway, but if this OpenID is even a Facebook OpenId, this is even more attractive. The relying party can not only access the users profile data but can even motivate the new user to recommend their service to his friends. What a great deal!
I’m pretty sure that this option will be a far more interesting argument for potential relying parties than just the single sign on experience of OpenID alone.
But wait - OpenID is moving on and becoming the basic element of the “open stack”. That way OpenId will be able to provide the same amount of data as Facebook Connect, just in a more open, standards based way.
Ironically this will probably be the reason why - somewhere in the future - we will see Facebook as an OpenID relying party too: as soon as the “open stack” becomes reality, Facebook has a lot of benefits from accepting OpenID registrations - the user can bring his complete social graph with him, immediately, even from his Gmail contacts or his MySpace account! Even more: with projects like http://activitystrea.ms, Facebook will be able to sync “external” activities with activities inside Facebook, all under their own privacy controls.
You see - it’s just “business as usual” - (big) companies have to see a benefit for becoming a relying party - and this benefit clearly comes from integrating the whole open stack - creating new user registrations with instant social graphs being ported to their sites.
The fight for users in the future will turn from “keeping users because of walling their social graph” to “keeping users because of the best features”.
Anyway - this is not the argument for e-commerce companies - here it’s more about added security to enable financial transactions - PayPal will clearly be the leader of this movement.
looking at the line up of big companies on the OpenID board, we will hopefully not see things slow down too much because of more difficult processes for finding agreements acceptable for all parties involved.