Facebook Connect doesn’t doom OpenID

Dick Hardt’s Identity 2.0 blog has a very interesting post that wonders if Facebook Connect might prevent OpenID adoption. I think he’s vastly oversimplifying the ecology of turning a good idea into a monopoly when it’s surrounded by interoperable alternatives.

I have no doubt at all that Facebook will get significant traction with this (Dick’s Digg scenario is a great one), but the reason this doesn’t doom OpenID is the same reason that many people have gmail but _everyone_ has email.

For any ecosystem where 90% adoption makes ~100% adoption an almost sure thing (phone, email, and now Identity 2.0), interoperation not only makes it easier, but is practically required to make it possible in the first place.

Facebook Connect might provide additional value above simply being any old identity provider (just like gmail ain’t just another email provider), but there are still holdouts who haven’t heard of Facebook, don’t care about Facebook, or are maybe even conscientious objectors to Facebook. I’m optimistic that some of these users might settle on something else that works fine for them before facebook manages to build a monopoly in online identity.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 24, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    At the same time, the uniqueness of this situation does spark some thought. For example, in reference to your example about email… I think what makes Gmail diffrent from facebook is its position in the market. While gmail may certainly be one of the best email providers… I think we see alternatives to gmail not because of dissension (for the most part) with the service, but simply because gmail is still a very new provider. On that note, the face that there are many people with email that do not use gmail… to me, seems to be a resultant of an early AOL (and its like) monopoly.

    In contrast, in the identity game, generally speaking, I think it is safe to say that facebook is the first player to the game in terms of giving people a palpable identity on the web. Sure, it doesnt deal with all of this cross-platform log-in nonsense… but when you say identity and the internet in the same sentence, most people will think of Facebook long before OpenID comes to mind.

    With that being true, and given Facebook\’s weight in the marketplace… I think it is safe to assume that while the details may be up for debate, what is non-negotiable is that facebook will have a significant impact on what end users view as the open web.

    At this point, I think the question isnt whether or not OpenID is going to be replaced, or doomed, by facebook connect, but rather; will OpenID remain pliable enough to incorporate the changes facebook is looking to make?

    It was at least my impression that OpenID was more about a movement/idea than just holding onto its own namespace or structure. While I am sure that there will be several different approaches to this OpenID way of thinking… right now especially, the worst think that OpenID can do would be to try and remain distinct from Facebook Connect.

    The last thing something like OpenID needs is some sort of prolonged internet squabble… when in all reality, both OpenID and facebook, in principle at least, are going after the same thing.

    The real success/money/victory is going to be in merging the two (plus more in time). Who ever nails that one down, and finds a way to articulate FacebookConnect, and OpenID across the internet (cough, cough)… should have quite the corner on the open web market.

    In short, back to your analogy… what we should be looking for here isnt a snazzy user interface for email… nor should we be debating individual providers of email… but rather, an Open ID/ Open Web version of SMTP.

    Just my thoughts…

    Oh, and ironically… who would have ever thought that there would need to be an OpenID solution to the OpenID system… haha. Kind of funny if you think about it.

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