OpenID And Scatmania

Over the last few weeks I’ve playing playing with an exciting new technology known as OpenID. Do you remember Microsoft Passport and it’s opposite number, Liberty Alliance? Well; we all know that these services weren’t all they cracked up to be. They claimed to be “distributed log-on services”, but in actual fact they were centralised log-on services (controlled, for example – in the case of Passport – by Microsoft – do you want Microsoft to know everything you do on the web?), and not really distributed at all…

…OpenID really is a distributed log-on service. Anybody can set up an OpenID server and start giving out OpenID accounts. If you have a weblog with LiveJournal, for example, you already have one, and soon folks on other similar blogging services will have them too.

I’d love to see a future where OpenID catches on, because it really is a beautiful and elegant (from a technical point of view) way of doing things, and it’s really easy to use from a user’s point of view, too. I’ve spent a little while implementing the beginnings of a WordPress (the blogging engine that powers this site) plug-in, and it’s taking shape: if you look in the upper-right of the page, you should find that you’re able to log in to this web site using your LiveJournal account. That means that WordPress users like myself, in future, should be able to do things like LiveJournal’s “friends only” posts, and allow LiveJournal users to make comments in a way that proves they are who they say they are, and many other benefits, too.

But, of course, it doesn’t stop there: DeadJournal will be next. Then TypePad. Then Blogger and the forum sites – phpBB and the like. Then the wiki sites. All of these sites will be able to authenticate against one another, and make content private, or accessible, without having to have silly “sign up” systems of the type we’re starting to see everywhere these days.

It’s all very exciting, but it’s early days for now. Right now, my WordPress plugin doesn’t do a lot – you can log in and out, and that’s about it. But give me a go, and tell me what you think – log in to my blog using your LiveJournal account, and give me some feedback. And when I finally get this code to a production level (right now it’s buggy as hell), I’ll release it as a WordPress plugin, and the world will be great.

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