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TechCrunch: Is OpenID being exploited for PR purposes by the "Big Internet Companies"?

BBA831C6-CAD7-498F-9164-AC5BA8FEADD7.jpgAre the Big Internet Companies (AOL, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) really committed to OpenID or are they merely exploiting it for PR purposes? That's the question Mike Arrington asks today over on TechCrunch.

When I last wrote about OpenID back in January, that was pretty much my same question in: "Yahoo supports OpenID... Yaawwwnnn... when can I *login* to Yahoo! services with OpenID?". As I recounted in that post, I have no problem with getting an OpenID identity. In fact, the problem if anything is that I have too many options for OpenID identities! I can use my own site, my LiveJournal account, my Yahoo account, my AOL/AIM account, etc.

But where can I use my OpenID?

That remains the key question. I want to consolidate my various accounts behind one (or a few) OpenID accounts. I want to be able to login to my Google account with the same OpenID that I use to login to my Yahoo account, my AOL/AIM account, my LinkedIn page, other websites (and heck, why not Facebook, too?)

This is Arrington's point, really. The "Big Internet Companies" are issuing news releases about their support for OpenID, but are only going halfway. So his point is... is this really just good PR for these companies? That they can use it to look good, but not actually help move OpenID along.

The challenge, of course, is that the "Big Internet Companies" would all like to be that "one account" that I use. They would like to be your "home" on the Internet. So on one level there is a severe DISincentive for them to start accepting OpenIDs for login. If they start accepting OpenID logins, users might potentially use an OpenID account of one of the other Big Internet Companies that have not yet opened up. So if Google opens up first and lets logins via OpenID, users might all use Yahoo accounts as their OpenID. If Yahoo opens up first, users might use a Google account.... and so on.

It's almost like there needs to be an "OpenID Big Bang Day" when all the big players start accepting OpenID logins. At the agreed-upon time, all the Big Internet Companies start letting people login with an OpenID URL. No one is disadvantaged. Users can just start using whichever account they want. (In fact, maybe the Big Internet Companies might then start offering reasons why they are the better OpenID provider?)

In the meantime, I expect we'll probably continue in the current state.... many Open ID providers... not as many places to use them. (And yes, I do realize there are an increasing number of smaller sites that are accepting OpenID.)

More coverage today:

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