What is OpenID and how can I use it?

What is OpenID, in simple English

OpenID is a single login that you can use across many websites on the internet. With OpenID, you no longer need to create a username/password when registering on a new website. You can simply use your existing OpenID.

Using OpenID

OpenId Login

OpenId Login

Using an OpenID to login to a website is similar to the notion of showing your driver’s license at the box office when picking up tickets or showing your driver’s license at the airport security to prove your identity. OpenID is a single digital identity that you own. You present it when logging in to a website or at a blog post when submitting a comment.

You can only use OpenID on Websites which accept OpenID. Look for the OpenID symbol or text like “Login using an OpenID” as shown in the image on the right.

How does OpenID work?

  1. You get an OpenID with one of the providers (more on this in the next section). Your OpenID is a short URL, for example mine is http://www.vineetmanohar.com
  2. You go to a website which accepts OpenID, for example, Stack Overflow
  3. You enter your OpenID and hit Login
  4. Your are redirected back to your OpenID provider’s website. You login there using your login/password that you setup in step 1. After logging in, you are automatically redirected back to website X where you came from.
  5. When you land on website X, you should be logged in.
  6. You can repeat the same procedure for website Y. Note that login/password only occurs on your OpenID provider’s website, so you only need to remember one login/password.

How to get an OpenID

You probably already have an OpenID. Most email/blog service providers already give you an OpenID. Here is a list of OpenIDs associated with popular services:

  • Google or Gmail: https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id
  • AOL or AIM: openid.aol.com/yourname
  • Yahoo!:: https://me.yahoo.com/yourname
    1. you need to first enable this feature on Yahoo’s OpenID page
    2. Yahoo! does not recommend using your yahoo login as your openID as it reveals your email address. You can change it to a longer cryptic string like https://me.yahoo.com/notyourname
    3. When asked for OpenID you can just type: yahoo.com. The website will redirect you to Yahoo! where you can login with your Yahoo! login/password.
  • My Space: www.myspace.com/username
  • Blogger: blogname.blogspot.com

Here’s an extensive List of OpenID providers

Your OpenID is your identity, so choose one carefully

Although you can sign up with any OpenID provider, you should think of it as your identity. In my opinion, good choices might be either your email provider, like Google, Yahoo or AOL, or your blog.

If you can’t decide which one to go with, go with the one where you are logged in most of the time. This could be your email provider or your social networking site. The advantage with this option is that you are probably logged in to your provider most of the time, you will not be asked to login when signing in to a third party site using OpenID.

Use your WordPress powered website or blog as your OpenID

If you have a WordPress powered blog or website, you can use it as your OpenID. You need to install the OpenID plugin for WordPress. After the installation is complete:

  • Use your blog URL as your OpenID when logging in to other websites. For example, I can use my blog address as my OpenID: http://www.vineetmanohar.com, in which case I am redirected back to my blog which logs me in, and then redirects me back to the website where I came from.
  • You can login to your blog using OpenID instead of your WordPress login/password.
  • Visitors to your blog can leave comments using their OpenID. If you are reading this blog and have an OpenID, you can leave comments at the bottom of this page using your OpenID.

How to use your Vanilla HTML homepage as your OpenID

You need to put two meta tags in the section of your HTML.

<link rel="openid.server" href="http://<openid provider server url>">
<link rel="openid.delegate"  href="http://<your openid with this provider>">

You will need the server url for your OpenId provider. Here are some server URLs.

  • AOL/AIM: https://api.screenname.aol.com/auth/openidServer
  • LiveJournal: http://www.livejournal.com/openid/server.bml
  • MyOpenID: http://www.myopenid.com/server
  • VeriSign: https://pip.verisignlabs.com/server
  • Vox: http://www.vox.com/services/openid/server
  • myvidoop: See this page

If you want to use delegation and your provider is not listed above, then check on your provider’s website or simply ask them.

This approach gives you more flexibility. With delegation, you can later change providers but continue to use your home page URL as your OpenID.

Seatbelt: a Firefox extension for Verisign OpenID accounts

If you chose Verisign as your OpenID provider, you can use the Seatbelt extension for Firefox. It automatically logs you in to any page which accepts OpenID.

Developers: how to add OpenID support on your site

When implementing a new website, consider adding OpenID support for new users. This article explains how to OpenID-enable your website.

Here’s a Java library for OpenID


Leave a Comment using your OpenID

The comment section of this page accepts OpenID login. Try out your new OpenID by leaving a comment below!

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