OpenID on Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM and VeriSign

For those of you who haven’t come into contact with it before, OpenID is an open-source single-login that works on many websites. In their own words “OpenID eliminates the need for multiple usernames across different websites, simplifying your online experience.”. And it does.

Some time ago, I set up the main domain of this website as an OpenID delegate (I use MyOpenID as my OpenID server), which basically means that I can put my own website’s URL into any OpenID login on another OpenID-enabled website, enter my OpenID password when asked for it, and be logged into that website, enabling me to comment on a blog without having to create yet another login for a blog I was unlikely to ever comment on again.

Up until now, OpenID hasn’t had many big players apart from the teen-angst-fest that is LiveJournal – it’s been mainly geek sites such as 37signals and Six Apart (although it’s also available as a plug-in for WordPress and Drupal – I have an OpenID login for this blog, which is built with WordPress).

So yesterday’s announcement that Google, IBM, Microsoft, VeriSign, and Yahoo! have joined the board of the OpenID Foundation is hugely important. To get a couple of those companies joining would have been big. To get all five of them is enormous.

So, if all five of these behemoths implemented OpenID then what would things be like? Well, the prospect of using the same ID (in my case, my personal website’s URL, which I can usually be relied on to remember!) to login to Google Analytics, Google Sitemaster Tools, YouTube, Yahoo! Instant Messenger and Flickr, would make my life much easier.

Admittedly both Google and Yahoo! had already made moves towards OpenID – last month Yahoo announced that YahooIDs would become OpenIDs (effectively tripling the number of OpenID accounts by adding the 248 million Yahoo! IDs to OpenID’s existing 120 million accounts).

Google swiftly followed suit a couple of days later by announcing that it’s blogging platform Blogger would allow users to use their blog’s URL as an OpenID URL (so long as it was hosted on BlogSpot).

This is stage one – now any BlogSpot-hosted blogger, Flickr-user or anyone with a Yahoo! login will be able to login to external sites that use OpenID. That’s a huge advancement.

But hopefully this latest announcement will take Google and yahoo one step further. At the moment the two search giants are still only providers of OpenID (they turn your existing account into an OpenID account), but they won’t accept OpenIDs as logins (although you can login to comment at Blogger using OpenID).

This hope of mine is strengthened by a comment yesterday by Yahoo!’s Jeremy Zawodny:

“Oh, and before anyone jumps on me about this not being “full” (meaning bi-directional) OpenID support, I’m quite aware of that. Consuming OpenID is a different beast that can’t happen overnight. Give it some time. I’m optimistic that we’ll get there.”