User Experience in the OpenID and Cardspace Paradigms

Aldo Castañeda has just posted a new installment of his The Story of Digital Identity podcast series which will be the first of several about user experience for OpenID. It’s a lively discussion between Johannes Ernst, Chris Messina, and myself about the unique user interface and education challenges of the OpenID user-centric identity paradigm. Johannes has posted a summary of several of these challenges.

In the podcast I compare the early days of usage of OpenID digital identifiers such as i-names to the early days of credit card usage. It was just an entirely new “ceremony” (to use Kim Cameron’s term, originated by Carl Ellison) to pay for a purchase with a piece of plastic instead of cash or a check. But it had numerous advantages for all three parties (the consumer, the merchant, and the banks) or it never would have happened.

The same is true here. The ability to login to a website without requiring a separate username or password must have clear benefits for all three parties (the end user, the website, and the OpenID identity provider offering the service) or it will never happen. The growing community working on OpenID clearly believes in these benefits or it wouldn’t be growing. But growth will be gated by how fast users, websites, and OpenID IdPs all come into alignment on a common understanding and experience of the OpenID login ceremony.

What’s fascinating is that there is a completely parallel effort going on for Cardspace. I know how much work Kim, Mike Jones, Bill Barnes (program manager) and the rest of the Cardspace team at MS have done around developing the new ceremony of presenting and using infocards to login to a website. Bill even has a new blog devoted largely to this subject (his post today on Password Gravity is fantastic).

Kim recently upbraided me for OpenID “confusing the issue” because OpenID can be construed as introducing one new paradigm/ceremony — based on user-controlled digital identifiers — at the same time Cardspace introduces another — based on user-controlled digital information cards. I have argued strongly in the past that address-based identity and card-based identity are complementary and not competing concepts. So now I issue a challenge to both the OpenID and Cardspace communities: since we’re both fighting the same user experience battle at the same time — and since our goals are complimentary and not conflicting — how can we help each other?

Atfer all, the big win (Kim’s “Identity Big Bang”) will come when the experience for the user (and the organization) is one consistent ceremony and paradigm for understanding how to safely use a digital identity in the context of all the transactions for which it may be needed. Sort of like we do for credit cards today.

We just don’t want it to take 10 years to get there…

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About Drummond Reed

Internet entrepreneur in identity, personal data, and trust frameworks
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