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Our co-founder and President Mena Trott has been sharing her stories on her personal blog Dollarshort since 2001.

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OpenID's Growing Momentum

It’s a simple idea that’s going to have a powerful impact: Just like your email address, your web address is a form of identification for you. OpenID is the name of the free, open system for using the URL of your blog or other website as an identity to sign in on sites across the web.

OpenIDOur team here at Six Apart created the initial technology, but OpenID is gaining momentum across the web and we’re delighted to point out the successes that the community’s achieved even as the effort is just starting. First we should explain why you might be interested.

How does OpenID help everybody? Simple:

  • With OpenID, your web address (URL) is your identity
  • OpenID is free, and works with many sites across the web
  • You can get a free OpenID identity by starting a free blog with LiveJournal or Vox, or by using your existing TypePad or TypeKey account. OpenID plugins for Movable Type are also available.
  • When you sign into a site with OpenID, they don’t get access to your password
  • And, as Brad Fitzpatrick said when introducing OpenID, it’s “actually decentralized and doesn’t entirely crumble if one company turns evil or goes out of business”. Yay!

Plus, there are benefits for developers. LinuxWorld described OpenID as one of its top 20 web APIs, but as a hacker, you can find your own reasons to add it to your list of APIs:

  • OpenID is available for site developers to use free of charge
  • There’s lots of open source sample code available, using standard Free licenses
  • There are no patent annoyances or encumbrances on using OpenID
  • All Six Apart tools can let you use your blog’s address as an OpenID, and we plan to add the ability to sign in with OpenID in the future. (LiveJournal offers this today.)

A lot of this is explained well in Simon Willison’s excellent post about OpenID. It seems as if much of the recent activity is a mark of success for the teams at sites like OpenID Enabled and I Want My OpenID, which have helped get stories like “The case for OpenID” covered by prominent outlets like Slashdot.

The truth is, as effective as that kind of outreach is, the best way to help OpenID succeed is to make great experiences for normal users of the web. Most people aren’t yet familiar with the idea of using a personal URL as an identity, or they might not care that sharing their password with other sites when logging in is insecure. But everyone understands the benefit of “I don’t want to remember another password.”

So perhaps the best place to show how far OpenID has come in just a few months is with some of the high-profile sites that support the system. In addition to LiveJournal, where OpenID was born, there’s Technorati’s support of OpenID for claiming your blog, and Ma.gnolia has enabled OpenID for sign-in as well.

Wanna try it out for yourself? Sign in to (or sign up for) Vox, and get your address, something like example.vox.com. Then use that address to sign in on LiveJournal, Technorati, and Ma.gnolia. And then start thinking about how you could use that kind of functionality on the rest of sites you visit on the web.

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