Google, IBM, Microsoft, Verisign and Yahoo! have joined today the OpenID Foundation, an industry body that promotes the establishment of a single digital identity for each internet user.
The OpenID Foundation was formed in early 2006 by seven community members with the goal of "helping promote, protect and enabling the OpenID technologies and community."
OpenID is a free technology that eliminates the need for multiple user names across Internet sites. Internet users are prompted to create a portable Web identity, or OpenID, which would help them reduce the pain of managing dozens of user names and passwords. This "single sign-on" system is designed to address the issues posed by the growing number of web sites that require user authentication. The OpenID system allows web users to create one online identity that can be used to access many different sites requiring authentication.
According to the foundation, more than 10,000 Web sites support OpenID log-ins.
"With this support from these new company board members, the OpenID Foundation will be able to continue to promote and protect the technology and its community moving forward," said Bill Washburn, executive director, OpenID Foundation. "The community has expanded quickly since the inception of the foundation, and these companies will help bring OpenID into the mainstream markets."
"Google shares the OpenID Foundation?s vision of a Web that?s easy to use and built on open standards available to everyone," said Brad Fitzpatrick, a software engineer at Google. "OpenID was always intended to be a decentralized sign-on system, so it?s fantastic to join a foundation committed to keeping it free and unencumbered by proprietary extensions."
However, the OpenID concept could fire up privacy concerns among the internet users, who deserve the right to control their online presence and sometimes, their anonymity. There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the way ISPs, mobile phone service providers as well as advertising companies should protect the identities of their users/consumers. A recent example is a ruling issued by a European court that told a Spanish Internet provider Telefonica not to identify customers that use file-sharing services, following the request by Spain's music rights organization.