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Twitter Seeks To Replace Passwords with Digits Phone Number Login

Amid its traveling road show to connect with mobile developers, Twitter Inc. unveiled a new Web login system based on mobile users' phone numbers to address problems with traditional password-based sign-in methods.

Called Digits, the free app login system announced last October was last week upgraded to provide Web site login capability also.

"With Digits login for Web, you can implement a simple and secure login on your app's Web site with just a few lines of code," Twitter exec Manuel Deschamps said in a blog post. "To help you preserve the mobile-first experience of your service, your users still sign up first through your mobile app, as they normally would, before they can log in to your site. But now, not only can Digits help you drive more downloads for your app, it also enables you to bring your mobile service onto the web -- ensuring a consistent identity experience across platforms."

Users who log in to a Web site with Digits get an SMS text message with a confirmation code needed to sign in for the first time. After that, the user has automatic access to other participating sites, easing the sign-in process and avoiding problems with cumbersome passwords or the sometimes-complex OAuth authentication system. Twitter said developers need only include the company's JavaScript SDK in their Web apps and attach it to a login button.

"Passwords or other extra steps in the login process may reduce your Web site's conversion rate," Deschamps said. "Digits login for Web gives your users a powerful, single-log-in experience that also increases the conversion rate for your logins. Once a user has successfully authenticated via a Web site powered by Digits, Digits will intelligently omit SMS confirmation the next time the user logs into any other sites that are also powered by Digits. The result: users only have to log in on the Web once to engage with all of your services as well as other apps in the ecosystem."

It's the "Web site powered by Digits" aspect that will make or break the new initiative. To attract more developers, Twitter evangelists are on a global tour to publicize the company's Fabric, a suite of modular, cross-platform mobile development tools.

Also introduced last October, Fabric combines seven SDKs into one package -- fighting what the company called "SDK bloat" -- to help developers solve the traditionally thorny mobile problems of stability, distribution, revenue and identity.

Digits can address the identity component in two easy steps and just a few lines of code, Twitter says on its developer site. It points to the SMS functionality as a prime attraction, as it heretofore had been limited only to companies with enough time and resources to build a supporting infrastructure.

"When users forget which service they used to sign up for your app -- e-mail addresses, usernames or passwords -- you can lose customers," the site says. "By using our SMS verification in lieu of passwords, you can minimize both support costs and sign-in failures -- all while keeping your users happy and your app growing."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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