MySpace support bolsters OpenID, but the logins won't be portable

Popular social networking site MySpace said Tuesday it will join the open source authentication platform OpenID, further bolstering the idea of a unified system to carry online identities between Web sites. But for now, MySpace's OpenID accounts cannot be used elsewhere.

OpenID has already been embraced by nearly 8,000 sites, including Yahoo (the largest supporter in terms of users), Plaxo, Wetpaint, Technorati, and LiveJournal. But MySpace is the second largest site to join the network to date, and will nearly double the amount of OpenID accounts to a half-billion. Although, because MySpace doesn't require e-mail verification, many of its accounts may not be legitimate.

Google Blogger, AOL, VeriSign, France Telecom and Sun Microsystems have adopted or announced support for OpenID, and are at various stages of implementation in their sites.

Simply explained, OpenID allows a user to create a single identity profile that can be used across the Web at participating sites. This negates the need to fill out the same information on multiple sites, and then need to remember those login details for each individual account.

The service uses a URL -- for example: http://xxx.openid.com -- which is then inputted as the login credential for the participating site. A user can either register for an OpenID at the initiative's Web site, or use an OpenID that may have been created by a participating partner.

MySpace sees joining OpenID, and offering the option to create an OpenID profile for its users, as a way to make it "more useful" for individuals to have a MySpace account. However, the implementation of OpenID on MySpace is still incomplete.

The social networking site is what is called a "provider," which means the site can create new OpenIDs. But to actually use that OpenID login created on MySpace on another OpenID-supported site, MySpace needs to become a "relying party."

Although it is considering doing so, MySpace is not yet a relying party. Nor is Yahoo, which is also just a provider. In turn, a user that has a MySpace OpenID cannot log into Yahoo or LiveJournal with that account. Nor can a Yahoo account holder use his or her OpenID to access MySpace.

The fact that top-ten sites like MySpace and Yahoo have not yet become relying parties has significantly decreased the usefulness of OpenID in terms of unifying login systems across the Internet. The "walled gardens" between such services still exist, even though they are utilizing the same authentication standard behind that wall.

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