Over the weekend, I saw the announcement from AOL, to support OpenID for all of their 63 million AOL/AIM Ids (for those looking for a quick introduction to OpenID, click here). The details of the announcement are as follows (from panzerJohn blog):
- Every AOL/AIM user now has at least one OpenID URI, http://openid.aol.com/screenname.
- This experimental OpenID 1.1 Provider service is available now and we are conducting compatibility tests.
- Our blogging platform has enabled basic OpenID 1.1 in beta, so every beta blog URI is also a basic OpenID identifier. (No Yadis yet.)
- We don’t yet accept OpenID identities within our products as a relying party, but we’re actively working on it. That roll-out is likely to be gradual.
- We are tracking the OpenID 2.0 standardization effort and plan to support it after it becomes final.
AOL tries to make AOL/AIM user names sticky
This is an interesting gambit for AOL, who has been shifting from a subscription model to a rich media content/ad based business model, by leverage their access to the Time Warner content library. Opening up AOL/AIM user names via OpenID adds another dimension to this strategy. With OpenID integration, AOL hopes to find more uses for AOL/AIM usernames and to drive more sticky and consistent traffic to AOL. How does it affect AOL/AIM users? With the OpenID integration, an AOL user will be able to login to a service provider that accepts OpenID, using their AOL/AIM username/password, without needing to create a new service specific username/password. This is a great way for AOL to try and retain its once formidable and still significant user base by providing an OpenID based solution to the knotty problem of web signal sign-on.
Further momentum for OpenID
For the OpenID community, this is a significant number of users that can force more vendors to accept OpenID as a sign-on mechanism. One issue to keep on eye on is that this announcement could cause premature mass adoption for OpenID, before it is fully baked. This could potentially expose OpenID to user backlash based on its well documented security issues (see our analysis of the OpenID security issues here). Still, AOL opening up OpenID to its 63 million users is a great validation for OpenID solution. On the heels of the Microsoft announcement, this announcement builds further momentum for OpenID solution as the answer to the web single sign-on problems.
Solution in Site?
With the recent news about OpenID and the movement by giants like Microsoft and AOL, the solution to web single sign-on problem might finally be in sight. Let’s hope we continue along with this torrid pace towards a web where users don’t have to create and remember separate IDs for each service they use.
Also available on Read/Write Web.