Google, Microsoft, IBM, VeriSign and Yahoo Join OpenID Board

In a move that could help deliver single sign-on to the masses, Google, Microsoft, IBM, VeriSign and Yahoo have joined a consortium that backs a common federated identity specification.

The vendors jointly announced their membership to the OpenID Foundation's board on Thursday, Feb. 7. The OpenID spec allows individuals to create one user name, password and other credentials for logging onto multiple Web sites that support the spec.

"It's a really easy way for users to be able to secure their identities," said Scott Kveton, vice president of open platforms at Tulsa-based Vidoop LLC, a supplier of multi-factor security software. Kveton, who is chairman of the OpenID community board, said corporate developers can also incorporate the spec into their applications.

"When you think of OpenID, it's a very open, public-facing kind of technology, but you can also run an OpenID provider for use inside of your firewall," Kveton said, adding there are implementations available in multiple programming languages and environments, including Java, .NET, Python and PHP.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie first announced support for the spec exactly a year ago at the 2007 RSA Security conference when Microsoft, JanRain, Sxip and Verisign said that they would work together to provide interoperability between OpenID and Windows CardSpaces.

The problem is that such an implementation will presume developers are working with the .NET 3.0 Framework, which, for now, is only a small percentage of the overall Windows developer community, said Jeffrey McManus, principal of San Francisco consulting firm Platform Associates.

"It seems like a pity it would require someone to have to wait a year or two until an organization adopts a later version of the .NET stack to be able to adopt OpenID," McManus commented. However, he points out that there are some third-party tools that allow developers to use older versions of the .NET stack. One from ExtremeSwank was updated last week.

OpenID is a community-developed and maintained spec, although the foundation is not operating as a formal standards-making body. "It's a good example of community-driven standards versus a vendor-driven standard," McManus said.

Kveton said there are no plans for the group to become a standards body or to do certification, but it hasn't ruled out conducting interoperability tests.

Microsoft's representative to the OpenID board, Mike Jones, cited a need for efforts around building an identity layer.

"The Internet is still missing a much-needed ubiquitous identity layer," Jones wrote on his blog. "The good news is that the broad industry collaboration that has emerged around OpenID is a key enabler for building it together."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine.