November 20, 2008

Yahoo Ups the Ante for OpenID with Profile Portability

Yahoo + Plaxo + OpenIDYahoo has been working fast and furious to help their users take their Yahoo account with them across the web using open standards. Today they’ve released a limited test of a major enhancement to their OpenID provider: when you sign up for Plaxo with your Yahoo ID, you can now opt-in to sharing your Yahoo! profile data–full name, nickname, e-mail address, gender, language, and timezone–almost everything you need to get up and running with Plaxo or most other services. (During this limited test roll-out, sharing of profile data will be available to a few sites, including Plaxo and Jyte.) Best of all, we can now auto-validate your Yahoo! e-mail address (since it’s coming from Yahoo!), rather than having to send you one of those e-mail messages to click and confirm you really own it. Yahoo! thus joins Google in their ability to provide an auto-validated email address during sign up, but they’ve now gone further than any major OpenID provider by also sharing the rest of the profile data. This is a great step forward for Yahoo, relying parties like Plaxo, and the Open Web–congrats are certainly in order!
This announcement comes on the heels of Yahoo’s pioneering usability studies on OpenID, which they published for everyone to benefit from (they even went a step further by hosting an OpenID UX Summit on their campus). And Yahoo! is eating their own dogfood–they also recently streamlined and clarified their own OpenID flow. These guys are on a roll, and they’ve been great to work with!
At the recent Internet Identity Workshop–an biannual gathering of people working on OpenID and related technologies–the folks at Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, MySpace, and others were all very focused on “how can we make OpenID work better for mainstream users”, and the clear consensus was to a) improve the UX, and b) share more data when signing up for a new site. Clearly a lot is happening already in the first category, and Yahoo!’s announcement today marks some serious progress in the second one. The hot topic next is how to let users also seamlessly grant access to their address book or friends list–after all, so many sites today ask you to import your webmail address book to find connections and invite people to join. Technically this will be accomplished via a hybrid OpenID and OAuth protocol and Portable Contacts (Yahoo! today is using the “simple registration extension” to OpenID, which is ideal for transferring basic profile data, but insufficient for providing access to richer private data via APIs). We all made great progress on nailing down the details of this hybrid protocol while at IIW.
Given the excitement and eagerness of all the participants there, I think we can continue to expect more and more data to flow across the OpenID link, which will make it increasingly valuable for Relying Parties like Plaxo, and should incentivize many more sites to become RPs themselves. It’s great to see this virtuous cycle in motion, and Plaxo is eager to work with any and all OpenID Providers who want to improve their UX and empower their users to use more of their data across the web!
PS: Here are some screen shots of 1) the “Sign in with your Yahoo! ID” option on Plaxo, 2) the consent page on Yahoo, where you can choose to also share your profile data, and 3) returning to Plaxo with a pre-filled registration page and no need to enter a Plaxo-specific password! Since this is a limited test, we’re eager to hear your feedback both at Plaxo and Yahoo!, so if you haven’t yet signed up for a Plaxo account, please give it a try and let us know what you think!




PPS: We also discussed this announcement in more detail on — check it out!

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Redgee Capili

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