Facebook Takes Leadership Position, Announces OpenID Support

Yesterday, during their Technology Tasting event, Facebook formally announced support for OpenID. For the past two and a half years I have been following the evolution of OpenID as it has emerged to become the leading standard for digital identity. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the standard as one company after the other pledged support yet failed to become a relying party, only issuing parties (meaning you can use their site for logging in to other sites).

The movement has been taking place for a long time. Almost two and a half years ago I was at Future of Web Apps in London during which Kevin Rose of Digg announced that they would begin offering OpenID support. Mike Arrington was in the front row basically pressuring every company that came on stage to announce that they would provide OpenID support. A few companies caved in on stage and it appeared as though a movement had started.

Many failed to officially implement the service following that conference and it would take years before the movement was re-energized. Google Friend Connect has been pushing the open standards route and now Facebook is jumping on the bandwagon. You can thank David Recordon, Joseph Smarr, Chris Messina, and John McCrea for pushing hard to make these standards a widely accepted standard. Their hard work (in addition to many others, like Luke Shepard at Facebook and Kevin Marks at Google) are finally beginning to yield some incredible results.

User Experience Proves To Be Tipping Point

If you’ve been tracking open identity standards over the past few years one thing you probably noticed is that most standards looked absolutely horrific. Few open standards have ever, and probably never will, have commercial appeal. Just take a look at the W3C site or the Apache Software Foundation’s website. They both have practically no styling and most people on the internet have no idea what they are.

Honestly, most people never need to know how any of these things work. One thing that has become clear is that pushing forward new standards require much more significant lobbying on the parts of the standard’s community. It’s not like Facebook added OpenID out of necessity. Instead, the company has taken a leadership position and is supporting the standards for the betterment of the collective.

While some are quick to criticize Facebook’s stated implementation, the site is trying to implement a high quality user experience (as Facebook consistently strives to accomplish). At the February OpenID User Experience summit at Facebook, many of the top social services worked together to develop an effective implementation strategy.

While a few continue to debate the best implementation model, the best part of it is that it’s finally being implemented. These standards will eventually become the foundation of a seamless, social web and just in the past 6 months the concept of the “open stack” has really gained traction.

This Is Still The Beginning

While Facebook has announced that they will soon implement OpenID, it has not taken place yet. Many other sites still do not have OpenID enabled as their primary method for registration and it will take some time before that happens. Thanks to the ongoing leadership of the open standards community and now Facebook, the social web is finally becoming a seamless component of the ever evolving internet.