Monday, January 28, 2008

What is OpenID?

First let me start with a little advertisement...well, not really!! Just in case you're interested in other technical topics that I have previously written, please feel free to check my other two blogs: Brain Blizzard (various topics) and Database Land (database specific - just started).

Now, to the main subject of this post. Recently, the term OpenID has started to gain much attention, especially among bloggers. But what is OpenID? As mentioned in the OpenID website:

OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity. OpenID eliminates the need for multiple user names across different websites, simplifying your online experience.

So what does this mean? Each one of us has different accounts on different websites, and we need to maintain a list of different identities to use with each of these websites. Sometimes, however, it's better to have something that tells you that user jsmith who commented on your blogger blog, is the same as the user john_s who writes in blog "X Y Z!" on, and he is even the same j_s who owns a particular Flickr photo album. So how do we do that??

This is where OpenID comes into play. More and more websites (especially blogging websites) are adopting OpenID. Anyone can sign up for a new OpenID for free. Now, let's say you want to post a comment to a certain blog post. In many cases you can choose to sign in using your OpenID, which will link back to your OpenID profile, in which you can link to all your other identities (blogs, photostreams, profile pages, etc.). Actually it is even easier than this. If you have an account with some particular providers, then you might already have an OpenID. For example, if you have a blog on or LiveJournal, then your username is already your OpenID.

However, I do recommend that you sign up for an independent OpenID (at that you can link with your other identities. The reason is as follows. Let's say you use your OpenID that you obtained from LiveJournal, then you decided that you don't want your LiveJournal account anymore. In this case, you have two options: You either have to keep the account, since you already used the OpenID to comment on other people's blogs and so on, OR you can delete the account, and therefore all those comments will not be traceable back to you. On the other hand, having an independent OpenID means that you can keep it regardless of what other accounts you have.

So, do you have an OpenID? What do you think about it? Which provider do you use?

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