Researching Google’s Moves in OpenID

2 Comments 07.08.09

I wrote a post this evening about Google’s forthcoming announcement that all Google Apps for Your Domain customers would be enabled with OpenID provider functionality within the next few weeks. It was emailed to a public list and it seems pretty clear that it wasn’t meant to be.

I think this is very important. Writing the article was an opportunity to address the tension between small innovators and big vendors in the digital freedom space.  (Hey, new phrase for me, but isn’t that what this is?)  That’s something I’ve been thinking about peripherally for awhile.  Both are needed, people say.   Innovators on the edge to come up with crazy ideas and be authentic – big vendors like Google and Facebook to deliver the ideas to the people, validate them and grant the functionality only possible with scale.  It’s not always pretty, though.

I ran with this story just as fast as I could, but I think I will revisit it because it’s a big deal.  For what it’s worth, I sure didn’t start my RWW headline with “EXCLUSIVE” or anything like that – because that’s so crudely self-aggrandizing that it’s embarrassing to read.

The Google employee who wrote the email disclosing the big plans, Google Security Product Manager Eric Sachs, would be great to interview.  I should also contact Google PR.  OpenID community members, some of whom have reached out to me for a little “check in” in the 45 minutes since I wrote that post (!), Facebook and JanRain would all be good parties to interview for a follow up post.

All of this is serious stuff: digital identity, web navigation, data resource utlization, freedom to use our resources online.  For example, that’s the kind of stuff that Nick Givotovsky, an internet identity trailblazer whose obituary I wrote on ReadWriteWeb first thing this morning, will be best known for (outside his immediate friends and family).  In this cynical era we often don’t take ourselves seriously, publicly, but these matters are honestly important for the future of the human experience.  Google’s OpenID moves we covered tonight deserve further coverage in that context.  Let me know publicly or privately if you can contribute to the research I’ll be gathering on the topic.

It’s funny, by the way, originally I titled this post: Google’s Moves in OpenID – A Big Deal.  That was much more ReadWriteWeb, news reporting, declarative style.  The new headline, “Researching Google’s Moves in OpenID” sounds much more like a request for help in digging up any details on this I can can for a more informed story.  That’s honestly how I feel.  I think the gap between time pressed blog-journalism and the tradition of solid journalism that’s been established is substantial.  I’d like to find a middle ground, a way to have my cake and eat it too.  Tools, like I work with all the time, are one way I think – but asking for help from a larger community is another.

So what do you know about Google and OpenID?  What do you think?   Let me know, let me know if I can quote you or if you prefer to stay private, and either way it will be helpful for a story that I’ll tell to more people than are reading this blog.


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  • The missing piece in the OpenID puzzle is for users to have the ability to validate, through DNS validation, a SUB-DOMAIN.

    There’s two benefits to OpenID. The first, and most widely known, is the ability to have a single universal username for all your web logins. While this use of OpenID is fine it is not really that unique nor exciting.

    The second benefit is the ability to use your OpenID validated domain as a central social hub for all your web activity. The current group of providers makes people use a sub-domain linked to their own domains (e.g. marshall.myopenid.com. This requirement effectively locks you into that OpenID providers and makes it very difficult to migrate.

    The reason I am hopeful about Google Apps being an OpenID provider is that it already let’s users set-up custom sub-domains by creating a new CNAME in your DNS settings.

    If google let’s users do the same with their OpenID domains then this is indeed a game changer.

    I would recommend that Google take it one step further and let users create two sub-domains associated with their validated OpenID accounts- one for logins (login.marshallk.com) and another as their social hubs, lifestream.marshallk.com.

    If we really want to push the envelope then we should also suggest that Google link one’s OpenID account with one’s Google Profile account.

    Great to see Google push the OpenID community forward since it’s been stuck for a while now.

  • As a lawyer who helps people recover from identity theft, Google offering OpenID provider functionality raises privacy, identity theft, and legal concerns. In the event that the OpenID username and password database’s security is compromised, a staggering amount of personal, private, and confidential information could end up in the wrong hands. OpenID is great for social bookmarking and posting; however, I would not recommend its use for banking, financial, medical or business use. I hope this helps, because this topic certainly deserves further investigation.