Commercial incentive is a powerful force, and in the race for our web identities there is no exception. Over the weekend the OpenID Foundation announced that they are having its first election of community board members. Meanwhile Facebook and Google have launched their own identity services that enable users to instantly log in to any site with third-party accounts. Google Friend Connect uses open standards while Facebook Connect uses it’s own identity confirmation system.
It appears as though both systems have somewhat avoided the OpenID discussion and have simply moved forward with their own model. The reality is that users want to log in with their existing accounts from other sites rather than use a new identity protocol. If you think about it, you probably log in to multiple accounts daily using just your Google or Yahoo! account. It would be easy to simply extend those services to the rest of the web.
The problem with that model, or so says the OpenID supporters, is that the individuals don’t get to own their identity. Unfortunately though, most individuals don’t even understand what owning their identity is all about. When I added a Facebook Connect widget to AllFacebook last week, I had hundreds of people simply log in out of curiosity. They didn’t realize what was taking place behind the scenes necessarily and simply wanted to see how it worked.
So should OpenID be launching their own widget campaign? Most definitely! The group seems to still be in the process of organizing though (view nominations here). I used to be a huge advocate of OpenID and I honestly believe that there is still a lot of movement going on. Unfortunately though I think the group is over planning and under executing. While some large organizations (Yahoo! included) are supporting the identity standard, there is still a lack of general consumer education. Without that there is no way OpenID can compete with Facebook Connect and other new standards.