OpenID Email Translation
Last week, Neville Hobson introduced me to a new signon process called BrowserID. It was developed by Mozilla Labs and touts itself as, “A better way to sign in.” OpenID, while making a number of inroads, appears to continue to struggle for mainstream support. While they may not say it directly, Mozilla must see BrowserID as a replacement for OpenID.
I’m not ready to give up on OpenID yet, though. A lot of work has gone into its development and I think it’s too valuable to abandon. From a user’s perspective, however, OpenID has a major flaw: it’s not based on your email address.
We use our email addresses every day. They have become synonymous with our identity on the web, but OpenID doesn’t recognize this. Instead, OpenID forces you to identify as a url. While this may seem like a small thing to technically savvy folks, I can see how it is difficult for most people; it has never felt natural to me.
Email to ID
The email to OpenID translation issue was addressed in 2008 by a service called Email to ID. This seems perfect, but you know what, I’d never heard of it. In fact, I wrote my own translator (using Gravatar.com) before I found the service.
My Proof of Concept
Since I’ve already gone to the trouble of developing a simple translation service, I’ll walk through it here. My translator is a proof of concept and relies on the profile feature at Gravatar.com. I’d love to see something like this at OpenID.net. Yes, it would be a point of failure, but one could always fallback to the uri if a widescale failure occurred.
For my service, I added a link to my openid uri on Gravatar.com. The link has the title, “openid.” My solution requires the “openid” link on the Gavatar profile. This is where the translation is performed.
Once I had added the link to my profile on Gravatar, I just had to modify my OpenID plugin to enable the translation. You can see this working on my signon page (you can test using my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org). If you’ve added the “openid” link to your Gravatar profile, you can simply enter your email address into the OpenID login box (tab out of the box) and it will automatically translate the email address to your OpenID url.
If the folks at OpenID want to succeed, they must introduce this translation process into the core product. I don’t know why this isn’t available now. While I don’t have time to join the OpenID discussion, I hope that someone will think this through and make this change. BrowserID is a nice effort, but I don’t see a reason to push another process when we have something that can already work quite well.
data-text=”OpenID Email Translation (Shannon Whitley)”