SeatBelt: Switch OpenID Providers Easily

Eventually I have managed to check VeriSign’s SeatBelt a little bit more. SeatBelt is a add-on for Firefox which supports users managing different OpenID providers directly from within their browser and makes logging in to OpenID enabled websites rather foolproof. Additionally it helps detecting phishing sites and is displaying a warning message to users.

How Does it Work?

After installing the add-on and restarting the browser users can add links to their OpenID providers; currently SeatBelt is supported by VeriSign’s own PIP, myOpenID, myXlogon, and AOL. It is also possible to add a delegation URL and the corresponding provider.
Update (Sept 10): It is a little bit difficult to find the correct URL for the AOL Identity Provider, so here it is: https://api.screenname.aol.com/auth
It might have been posted somewhere else, though I have discovered it in the comments of this blog post on the AOL developers site.

If you are not logged in to your provider already – it’s possible to enable a login at he default provider at the start of the browser – SeatBelt indicates that you are logged off by displaying an icon in the bookmark bar of the browser (don’t be fooled by the German messages, by default they are English). logged_off
So when you are on an OpenID enabled website and click into the OpenID sign in field SeatBelt tells you that you are on website supporting OpenID authentication and asks if you would like to sign in to your provider.

discovery

It then redirects you to your provider’s login page which is also indicated by changing the colour of the icon: login

sign_in

Then you are back to the OpenID enabled website, the sign in field is auto-filled and you can log in. Pretty easy. logged_in

auto_fill

Problems

Occasionally the icon disappears from my browser, especially when starting the browser again. I haven’t discovered any scheme to reproduce it. I have to go to the add-on dialogue of the browser to make it visible again.

Also it doesn’t detect all OpenID enabled websites, e.g. the sign in field on Ex.plode.us is not detected. Though I guess the problem might be Ex.plode.us’ OpenD implementation.

Though apart from those problems it works well. SeatBelt is especially useful for people who have at least accounts at two of the supported providers and actually use them on different sites. It makes switching providers very simple because users don’t have to browse to their provider’s login page first.

38 thoughts on “SeatBelt: Switch OpenID Providers Easily

  1. I am very happy to see someone talking about versignlabs seatbelt. I had no idea it worked for idp’s other than PIP. I got it working with myopenid easly by just adding their address. I was not able to get aol to work correctly where is aol’s seatbelt config file located?

  2. Right, ex.plode.us’s incompatibility is their own fault, not SeatBelt’s.

    The login input line on ex.plode.us’s login page is as follows:
    Username: <input type=”text” name=”username” class=”login” />

    There is only so many things Seatbelt (and practically, any piece of software) can do in order to figure out an OpenID login.

    Per The OpenID Auth Specs:
    It is RECOMMENDED that the form field be named “openid_url” so User-Agent’s will auto-complete the End User’s Identifier URL in the same way the eCommerce world tends to use conventions like “address1″ and “address2″.

    You certainly do not want SeatBelt to blow away all of your username fields on other sites with your OpenID URI.
    So, let’s get ex.plode.us to make this simple change!

  3. You are right about icon disappearing. Also, when I installed it, it took away the icons from my delicious, stumbleupon and bluedot toolbars. It is messy.

  4. @Robert: I haven’t tried SeatBelt and AOL yet. I will have a look at it, too.

    @Jason: Thanks for checking this. :)

    @Krish: Indeed, toolbars could be a reason. I use the StumbleUpon one.

  5. I like the idea behind seatbelt. I did also find that it messed up my del.icio.us toolbar (although not StumbleUpon). Uninstalling and reinstalling the del.icio.us addon sorted it out, but that shouldn’t really be necessary! Also, it doesn’t work for claimID, but that may be their problem.

  6. Hi Everyone:

    By way of introduction I am the technical director for both the PiP/SeatBelt products here at Verisign and I wanted to offer some comments:

    1) Jason is absolutely correct about why SB does not work with ex.plode.us. We could “special case” it but I’m reluctant to do that. If anyone knows them and could ask them to make the change that would be great.

    2) I did have a report about a problem with the new delicious tool bar. Unfortunately we have not been able to reproduce this to allow us to actually fix the problem. I did get a report from someone that restarting FF multiple times seemed to clear up the problem. If either Kris or Sean could reproduce this reliably and could help troubleshoot that would be great!

    3) Sean you are correct that SB does not currently work with claimid and as you pointed out it has to do with their current configuration and SB not set up to work in a manner as they currently have implemented their service. I’ve talked with them on a number of occasions and we’re trying to see what might be done.

    Finally for you Carsten the disappearing act also seems to happen during the first installation but then clears itself up. This is another one of those “hard to track down” problems similar to extensions not behaving together.

    Also I noticed you were on a German system for your screenshots. Just so you know we recently did an update which now also includes Korean language support.

    Thanks everyone for the support.

  7. I will get in touch with Ex.plode.us later this week. Hopefully they will change it.

    Regarding the StumbleUpon toolbar, uninstalling and reinstalling it actually did help. Thanks Sean. :)

  8. Carsten,
    Thank you so much for getting the AOL information so quickly.
    I also look forward to Claimid getting on the Seatbelt bandwagon soon.

    Gary, thanks for stopping by and introducing yourself. Great products.

  9. @Gary
    Thanks for the response. After thinking I’d sorted out the del.icio.us problem, it seems to recur when I close and restart firefox. I’ll do a bit of experimentation and report back.

  10. Here are some facts:
    Firefox 2.0.0.6 on XP
    I have Seatbelt in the statusbar not the toolbar area.

    Addons (too many!):
    Adblock Plus
    Answers
    Better Flickr
    ColorfulTabs
    CustomizeGoogle
    del.icio.us Bookmarks
    Download Statusbar
    Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
    Gmail Space
    Google Notebook
    Greasemonkey
    IE Tab
    Last.fmCode
    LocationBar
    NoScript
    Nuke Anythng Enhanced
    OpenBook
    Sage
    StumbleUpon
    TalkBack
    Torbutton
    Seatbelt

  11. Sean: Can you please contact me directly? I want you to try SB in “debug mode”

    My email: gkrall AT verisign DOT com

    Oh and one more quick one – do you see any difference in behavior between status bar versus bookmark position for SB?

    Thanks.

  12. All: Okay we finally nailed this one. There was a bit of a timing issue on load and the latest release should now fix this which by now all of you should have been upgraded to.

    Also shortly we’ll be adding Slovenian and Spanish translations to the list of supported languages: German, French and Korean.

    Thanks for all the help.

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