If a single theme emerged from the recent OpenID usability summit hosted by Facebook (to which I was not invited), it is that ‘Brands’ are the key to OpenID success. Users, more than anything else, identified themselves with brands such as Yahoo!, Facebook, and MySpace, and when presented with a federated login dialog, found the logos of these providers to be the most intuitive way to login. This is the driving force behind Facebook Connect adoption.
The key to brand-driven login, of course, is Directed Identity. It’s the feature of OpenID in which the user does not enter his OpenID URI, but instead, tells the site who he would like to login with (the provider’s identifier, not the user’s). Yahoo! was the first major supporter of Directed Identity and it is the primary feature of its OpenID service.
See where I am going with this?
If Directed Identity is the technology, and Brand-recognition the philosophy to move OpenID forward, isn’t that equal to declaring bankruptcy to the vision of self-controlled and hosted identity? Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook don’t need a community. They can meet in a room and decide how they want to inter-operate. Technically, they don’t even need to inter-operate because developers can just drop 4 libraries into their sites that will do all the heavy lifting for them (Facebook-style).
Is OpenID becoming noting more than a fig-leaf for big corporations, protecting them from anti-trust, and making their locked-in products look Open?