Home > smugmug, web 2.0 > More SmugMug & OpenID

More SmugMug & OpenID

February 26, 2007

I hope you’ve heard we now support OpenID. If not, now you have. 🙂

A commenter asked politely (after deleting his first rant) why on earth we were being a provider, when being a consumer was more important. I completely disagree, and here’s why:

We should be both. And we will be. But I believe in releasing features quickly and incrementally, so I had to choose one or the other. I chose being a provider. Why?

You can’t sell lightbulbs to those without electricity. You can’t sell gasoline cars to those without access to gas stations. You can’t consume OpenID if there’s no-one who has an OpenID.

Up until AOL’s announcement, LiveJournal/SixApart was the best (and only?) source of OpenIDs on a reasonable scale (100,000+ users), as far as I know. That’s really not very many users. I figured throwing our 100,000+ into the mix would help. I certainly hope it has. AOL, though, threw 63,000,000+ into the mix – so now we’re even closer to a critical mass.

This is a chicken-or-the-egg problem, and I believe you need lots of providers with established user bases to jumpstart it. I’m glad there are tons of brand-new OpenID providers who’ll give you an ID for free – but I believe the real make-or-break metric will be existing services enabling huge chunks of people in one fell swoop.

We just swooped. 🙂

On a side note, while I rarely whine about our lack of coverage (generally, I believe the best way to get coverage online is to buckle down and improve your product), I was surprised to see our OpenID news fall on the net in complete silence. More than 30,000 people read my blog on Friday, but not a single blogger or news source I’m aware of picked it up. Digg can announce that they’ll have support “later this year” and get tons of coverage but we enable more than 100,000 people overnight, making us the 3rd largest OpenID provider on the planet, and no-one cares?

We didn’t do this to get coverage, we did it because I’m a geek and I think OpenID rocks. But a little, tiny bit might have been nice. I guess my “improve the product” theory doesn’t work after all. Can someone enlighten me as to what I’m doing wrong?

Oh, and I’m sorry for the whining. I’ll try not to let it happen again. 🙂

Categories: smugmug, web 2.0
  1. February 26, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Well, most people answer OpenID with a resounding ‘Meh’. It solves one-step sign-in, yes. It doesn’t solve trust. I have no way of verifying if the user is who he claims it is.

    All OpenID gives me is the fact that there’s a website confirming that it has heard of that user. So, as somebody who runs a web site (and that’s the hat most bloggers who’re technical enough to follow OpenID are wearing), why am I getting excited again?

    Maybe you should blog about *why* you think OpenID needs to happen?

  2. Brent Matzelle
    February 26, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    > “Maybe you should blog about *why* you think OpenID needs to happen?”

    Agreed. I haven’t read any testimonials about how OpenID will improve the lives of developers. Maybe you’d like to add yours?

    Just because AOL and MS jump on board doesn’t mean that the effort is going to be successful. Microsoft Passport hasn’t exactly changed the world. What makes OpenID different? I’d really love to know so I can jump on board as well.

  3. February 26, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I also agree with Robert and Brent.  On my personal blog and the blogs that I read, posts usually are included on things that are of personal interest or have immediate and direct impact to their lives.  OpenID just hasn’t caught my attention because I honestly don’t yet see where it positively impacts me or the folks that I know.  Any help understanding this from your perspetive would be great.

    Love SmugMug.

  4. February 27, 2007 at 4:20 am

    I don’t know about Don, but I see OpenID as a quicker alternative when posting message board entries, photo comments, wiki entries, etc. No more having to register for each and every site that you post a message, you can just enter your OpenID and then the site has as much info about yourself as you want to deliver to them. I know I’m getting tired of having to try and remember each and every login and password to sites where security isn’t a big deal.

    I don’t see it replacing logins for web sites with sensitive info like banks and whatnot.

  5. February 27, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Exactly what wanderAround says – it’s just a token you can use to say “this is who I am” that correlates to other content using the same token. It’s great for all the places that need to identify me so they can use my ID as a key for some data, and that’s it. But that still solves some real problems.

    Don, the reason I think people may not have covered SmugMug’s OpenID support is that it may seem self-serving.

    I think the kind of people who know what OpenID is, and would be interesting in covering it, are naturally wary of anyone wanting (or offering) to own someone’s ID. It’s logical for Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, AOL, and other guys who already own someone’s online ID (by virtue of being their mail provider – if you’re used to giving out ‘bob@hotmail.com’ then using hotmail for OpenID seems logical). Using my ID at Digg, SmugMug, or any other single purpose service, seems to me to not be in the spirit of OpenID.

    Ideally a user would have one OpenID that they use everywhere – having every service you use offer you another OpenID just confuses things. A SmugMug OpenID would be about as useful as an @smugmug.com email address. It’s just not a service people would expect to get from you.

    That’s my take anyway. I love OpenID, but I think the natural thing is for users to either register a domain and get an ID that way, or to get it from their email/IM provider, since that’s where their ID already is.

  6. February 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Another day, another blog post: http://blogs.smugmug.com/onethumb/2007/02/27/why-openid-at-smugmug/


    Honestly, I’m surprised you guys don’t seem to see what I see, but hopefully that helps. If not, I’m sure you’ll let me know.


  7. March 2, 2007 at 2:19 am

    I tried to describe some of the reasons developers benefit from OpenID in “Six cool things you can build with OpenID”: http://simonwillison.net/2007/Feb/25/six/

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